They seek to decipher the genetics of extinct tree of Easter Island

They seek to decipher the genetics of extinct tree of Easter Island

The last toromiro of the island was cleared in the 60's. Today, scientists are trying to unravel your DNA so that this species return to the island territory.

The toromiro is one of the most iconic trees of Rapa Nui. It is not only an endemic species - with distribution restricted to this geographic region-, but it has also had a crucial in the history of the island, since with its wood is used to make ancient ceremonial objects, such as the known moai-kava kava.

This species is extinct in the wild - within the island-since 1960, when the last copy, located in the wetland of the Rano Kau, was felled. Since then, a number of projects have tried to reintegrate the toromiro in Rapa Nui, but none has managed to be successful so far.

A recent collaboration between Conaf of island of Passover and the Center for Genomics and bioinformatics genome further seeks to obtain the genetic fingerprint of some units of toromiro found in the country, especially in botanical gardens and collections private. The objective is to distinguish between authentic and hybrid individuals, and reintroduce the latter to Rapa Nui.

According to Ignacio Muñoz León, major genome researcher, the toromiro became extinct in the wild due to a number of factors. These include the action of humans through logging, as well as the introduction of livestock in the area. "In addition, over the years, the geography of the island changed generated areas of erosion soil changed a lot, and then there was no habitat making the toromiro to be comfortable", adds the scientist.

The problem that they have faced attempts to reintroduce the toromiro in Easter Island lies in that species of the genus sophora - that belongs to this Bush - tend to hybridize easily, reason why it has been so complex the task of determining which individuals are authentic and which not.

Another difficulty is the genetic poverty of the toromiro, as the head of the Technical Unit of Conaf on Easter Island, Enrique Tucki, calls it. "Although there are bullies in various parts of the world, it seems that they all come from the same mother plant. This could somehow explain why it costs so much to propagate and reinstall it within the island," says Tucki, although he stresses that this is unproven and that, precisely, that is the importance of this research, as it will help determine the real reasons why it has been complex to reinsert the bush in Rapa Nui.

Last December, the research team began with the collection of samples and the first analysis, and says Muñoz León, is expected to have the first results in May.

Initially, it's a pilot project that will analyze approximately 50 individuals who are in mainland Chile. To find them, researchers have the help of the Conservation Center of the garden botanical national, in Viña del Mar, which keeps a record of different individuals of toromiro descendants of the last tree present on the island.

After, and based on the results, scientists will begin to analyze samples from other parts of the world, in addition to what Munoz called ethnographic specimens, i.e. "masks, artifacts of makes 500 years known are toromiro, to verify that the plants" "today's day have the same DNA that wood from plants of 500 years ago".

The importance of this emblematic species of Rapa Nui is undeniable, according to Enrique Tucki, somehow represents everything that has to do with the conservation of our natural resources." "The toromiro symbolizes everything that the island was in any minute and that, perhaps, might turn out to be in the future", ends.

Source: The third