Quadrulella on Welgevonden

A few months ago I accompanied scientists on a short excursion in the Pitse area of Welgevonden Game Reserve to inspect a wetland visited earlier in the year.

Piet-Louis Grundling, a wetland specialist and chairman of the International Mire Conservation Group was accompanied by Edward Mitchell, a scientist from Switzerland wished to investigate the Sphagnum occurring in that specific drainage basin.

Sphagnumis a genus of mosses that comprises of about 120 species that are typically associated with the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere the largest distribution is in Argentina and Chile, but they also occur in New Zealand and Tasmania.

And here it is, a photo greatly enlarged of potentially the newest and smallest member of the Welgevonden Game Reserve’s species!

The most amazing fact about Sphagnum is its ability to store up to a billion times more water than its dry weight! Due to this attribute it is used as a soil conditioner to improve the water holding capabilities of soils, for hanging basket liners for orchid cultivation, as wound dressings, for growing mushrooms and for swimming pool care; amongst others.

The accumulation of Sphagnum material forms peat lands and bogs. What is really exciting is that here on Welgevonden Game Reserve is one of only two peat lands discovered in the Limpopo Province.

Sphagnumplants host unique eukaryotic micro-organisms. During his analysis of the samples collected at Welgevonden and Mutale, the other Limpopo mire, they discovered the amoeba known by the genus name is Quadrulella. These are square biogenic structures, which are quite rare in nature, with self-secreted plates made of silica. The species needs to be identified and could quite easily be a new species. The researcher should know this in a couple of weeks if the DNA extraction and PCR worked. “It’s great because we have an on-going barcoding project on this genus so we’re very happy to have this material!”-  states Edward Mitchell.