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Tasmania's eucalypts: their place in science


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Potts, BM and Reid, JB 2003 , 'Tasmania's eucalypts: their place in science' , Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, vol. 137 , pp. 21-37 , doi: 10.26749/rstpp.137.21.

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While representing only 29 of the more than 700 eucalypt species, those on the island of Tasmania have a unique place in the history and scientific discovery of this iconic genus. Eucalypts entered written history when Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania in 1642 and the type specimen for the genus, Eucalyptus obliqua L’Hér., was collected from Bruny Island in 1777 during Cook’s third voyage. The discovery of some of the endemic taxa was linked with the French expedition searching for La Pérouse in 1772-3, and the return of the type specimens to France was a great triumph against adversity. Nearly half a century later British botanists contributed to the discovery of the Tasmanian eucalypts with colonial collectors sending specimens to Kew Gardens, with Australian-based botanists completing the pioneering stages of botanical discovery in the early 1900’s. Botanists in Tasmania then led experimental approaches to understanding their evolution, ensuring a place for the island’s eucalypts in 20th Century science. The first major study of eucalypt chromosomes and cell division was undertaken with the Tasmanian eucalypts in the 1930’s. The post war decade saw the establishment of many of the lines of scientific enquiry pursued today, through the research of pioneering Tasmanian scientists such as Newton H. Barber and the recently deceased Bill Jackson, both of whom served as Professor of Botany at the University of Tasmania. Their studies of the roles of natural selection and hybridization in the evolution of tree genera led to outstanding work on the nature and origins of clinal variation. Molecular techniques have now allowed many of the questions posed by the early work of Jackson and Barber to be addressed. However, just as old questions are answered, new questions arise as genomic studies on this unique Australian genus open a new era of scientific discovery.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Potts, BM and Reid, JB
Keywords: Royal Society of Tasmania, RST, Van Diemens Land, natural history, science, ecology, taxonomy, botany, zoology, geology, geography, papers & proceedings, Australia, UTAS Library Eucalyptus, Tasmania, history, chromosomes, natural selection, hybridisation, clinal variation, quantitative genetics, molecular genetics
Journal or Publication Title: Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
ISSN: 0080-4703
DOI / ID Number: 10.26749/rstpp.137.21
Collections: Royal Society Collection > Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
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