New Species of Plant Named for BFREE Co-Founders, the Marlins

sedgeThe Marlins have a new plant species named in their honor! In the current issue of Kew Bulletin, co-authors (Wesley Knapp and Wayt Thomas) and I pay tribute to the Marlins and their accomplishments by naming Rhynchospora marliniana. We felt it especially appropriate to honor the Marlins and their contributions by naming a species that is widespread and common in Belize.

We are pleased to name Rhynchospora marliniana in honor of Jacob, Kelly, Sofia, Shaman, and Hyla Marlin. The Marlins are leading advocates for the conservation of biological diversity in Belize. Their founding of the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), and their development of what is now an active and important biological field station are especially notable among their many achievements.

Adding prestige to the Marlins’ recognition is the place of publication of Rhynchospora marliniana. Kew Bulletin is the flagship scientific journal of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, and one of the leading international journals of systematic botany in the world.

The beaksedges (Rhynchospora) comprise the largest genus of flowering plants in Belize. At least 46 species of these grass-like plants inhabit the country. Beaksedges occur in a variety of habitats, but are most diverse in savannas. Up to 16 species co-occur within a single savanna, and different savannas have different sets of species. As well, beaksedges often dominate these savannas. Floristically and ecologically, Rhynchospora is a very important genus.

On my first trip to Belize, Jacob Marlin introduced me to Belizean savannas. He showed me the savanna in the Deep River Forest Reserve, a short distance south of the BFREE border. There, I would make my first collection of what was to become Rhynchospora marliniana. However, I didn’t realize its status as a new species at that time. That recognition happened a couple months later, on a trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge in western Belize. There, in a savanna remnant, I found growing side-by-side Rhynchospora marliniana and R. plumosa, the species with which it had been confused. Quickly, I realized that two beaksedges were present. Their co-occurrence while maintaining their distinctions was compelling evidence of the existence of two species instead of one, one of them being new to science.Rhychmarliniana_drawing

In the time since my discovery on Mountain Pine Ridge, my co-authors and I conducted the thorough research on Marlins’ Beaksedge to document its status as a new species, its geographic distribution, and its ecology. During the course of additional trips, I found several more populations of it. On every one of these trips, Jacob, Kelly, and their children helped me with my research on Marlins’ Beaksedge, unknowingly. I say “unknowingly,” because I kept the naming a surprise until after publication.

Now, the Marlins have a species that bears their name. Marlins’ Beaksedge fittingly pays tribute to BFREE and many other accomplishments in Belizean conservation. More importantly, it serves as a reminder of the power of the few individuals who made these accomplishments possible through their vision, dedication, and perseverance.

2 replies
  1. David Marlin
    David Marlin says:

    Robert Naczi,

    What a lovely tribute to our son Jacob, his wife and children. We, of course, share your pride in their accomplishments and now can share derivatively in the Beaksedge Rhynchospora that carries our name.

    If your travels bring you to Washington, D.C., we trust you’ll let us know so we can meet you and toast the Marlinianas of this world.

    Sincerely,

    Jackie and David

    Reply
  2. Robert Naczi
    Robert Naczi says:

    Jackie and David,

    Yes, you deserve to be proud and to share in the honor! You and your support have made it possible for Jacob and his family to accomplish so much.

    Jacob has told me a lot about both of you, and I enjoyed seeing your photo in the current BFREE eNews. Your support of BFREE has positively impacted so many people, including me.

    I do hope to meet you someday soon, and will let you know when I’ll be nearby.

    All the best,
    Rob Naczi

    Reply

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