Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory
2013 Annual Report
The health and functioning of the greater Everglades ecosystem is being compromised by the proliferation of invasive exotic species. Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius Anacardiaceae), hereafter Schinus, is acknowledged to be one of the most harmful invasive plant species negatively affecting biodiversity and proper functioning of the system. Surveys in Brazil discovered a leaf gall former in the genus Calophya that was commonly seen causing considerable damage to the leaves of Schinus. Samples from 17 sites were collected in Brazil on Schinus and two other related plants, Schinus lentiscifolius and Lithrea molleoides. DNA barcoding analysis revealed three species of Calophya, one of which was new and undescribed. This new species is being described by experts in this group of insects. These results indicate that, where historically a single species was known feeding in Brazil on Schinus, there are at least three and probably more cryptic species that were revealed through molecular DNA techniques. Return surveys to this area are planned for the next year to continue examining this complex of undescribed species. When found these collections will be brought into quarantine for testing to determine their suitability for release.