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Ethnobotany genomics - discovery and innovation in a new era of exploratory research

Author(s): Newmaster Steven | Ragupathy Subramanyam

Journal: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
ISSN 1746-4269

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 2;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract We present here the first use of DNA barcoding in a new approach to ethnobotany we coined "ethnobotany genomics". This new approach is founded on the concept of 'assemblage' of biodiversity knowledge, which includes a coming together of different ways of knowing and valorizing species variation in a novel approach seeking to add value to both traditional knowledge (TK) and scientific knowledge (SK). We employed contemporary genomic technology, DNA barcoding, as an important tool for identifying cryptic species, which were already recognized ethnotaxa using the TK classification systems of local cultures in the Velliangiri Hills of India. This research is based on several case studies in our lab, which define an approach to that is poised to evolve quickly with the advent of new ideas and technology. Our results show that DNA barcoding validated several new cryptic plant species to science that were previously recognized by TK classifications of the Irulas and Malasars, and were lumped using SK classification. The contribution of the local aboriginal knowledge concerning plant diversity and utility in India is considerable; our study presents new ethnomedicine to science. Ethnobotany genomics can also be used to determine the distribution of rare species and their ecological requirements, including traditional ecological knowledge so that conservation strategies can be implemented. This is aligned with the Convention on Biological Diversity that was signed by over 150 nations, and thus the world's complex array of human-natural-technological relationships has effectively been re-organized.

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