At the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, I specialise in the study of the evolution within the Lentibulariaceae family. My work has helped untangle relationships between the Butterworts, Lobsterpots and Bladderworts.
These studies also led to uncovering excessive rates of molecular evolution and molecular energetic adaptations in the Bladderworts as compared to Butterworts and other flowering plants.
For example, they have lost the typical flowering plant-bodyplan, namely roots and shoots. Lobsterpots and Bladderworts also possess the smallest genomes known in plants, having purged almost all the “junk” DNA that occupies the genomes of most other plants.
With the help of a team of US researchers, I'm currently sequencing genomes from across the Lentibulariaceae family to gain some understanding of these evolutionary processes. The full genomes of three Australian species are already sequenced and assembled, with fifteen more in the works.
Untangling the DNA
In my most recent work with PhD student Paulo Baleeiro we found that a single South American species complex was instead an assemblage of at least six species. One of these species is only known from a single Brazilian waterfall, highlighting the link between understanding biodiversity and conservation.
One of the several Australian complexes currently being studied, the Fairy aprons (Utricularia dichotoma) uncovered five new species and seven new subspecies. One of these species is only known from two remote Artesian mound springs in far western Queensland.
The same study also provided the evidence for reinstating two species originally named by Robert Brown (the namesake of the NSW Herbarium Building) in 1804 from his collections in the Sydney basin.
While fieldwork provides some material required for studies, and they have taken me to many remote regions of Australia and the world, preserved herbarium material is also an essential element for providing data on morphological characters and DNA markers for phylogenetic studies of evolutionary relationships.
Plants with Bite
There is so much more to learn about carnivorous plants plus a wide variety of unique shapes and colours to see.
Plants with Bite
, the carnivorous plant display at The Calyx
, has over 7,000 carnivorous plants (18,000 plants altogether) - so you don't have to endure tropical rainstorms or trudge through muddy swamps to see Bladderworts up close.
About Dr Richard Jobson
Dr Jobson has been studying carnivorous plants since his early postgraduate years working on their ecology and diet and has been growing them since childhood.
He has also studied the evolution of the Droseraceae family (Venus fly traps, Tropical pitcher plants and Sundews) uncovering the sister relationship between the terrestrial Dionaea (Venus fly trap) and aquatic Aldrovanda (Waterwheel plant).
This provided evidence that the snap trap innovation evolved just once in the common ancestor of these two genera. His work on understanding Bladderwort evolution has led to the recent publication of 15 new Australian species.