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When plant systematist Elliot Gardner first began collecting samples of a fruit-bearing tree in Malaysian Borneo, he thought he was looking at just one species. Western taxonomists had long considered both the cultivated and wild types of Artocarpus odoratissimus, a close relative of breadfruit and jackfruit, as a single species. But time and again, Indigenous Iban and Dusun field botanists told him they recognized the two types as completely separate species. In a new study published in Current Biology, Gardner and his Indigenous and academic colleagues from Malaysia, the U.S., and Europe analyzed DNA samples from the two types of tree growing in Malaysian Borneo and from herbarium specimens. The results of their genetic tests confirm that the trees are indeed two distinct species. The finding is the latest in a growing body of research that demonstrates the value of Indigenous and local knowledge to conservation science and sustainable land management. The fruit of the tree known to the Iban as lumok (Artocarpus odoratissimus) are large and juicy, similar to jackfruit. Image by Elliot Gardner According to Gardner, from Florida International University and lead author of the study, the fact that Iban and Dusun Indigenous knowledge-derived classification of the trees was more accurate than Linnean taxonomy emphasizes how Indigenous knowledge holds key insights and should be recognized as complementary to modern science. “The two kinds of knowledge can really complement one another if you have equal engagement,” Gardner told Mongabay. “Scientific taxonomy brings a broad, synthetic approach so that we…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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