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The Acanthaceae are among the 10 or so most taxonomically diverse families of flowering plants. Taxonomically, northern regions of the Neotropics including Mexico and much of Central America have been studied to a greater degree than have more southerly regions of the Neotropics including most of South America. In particular, the Acanthaceae biotas of Venezuela and Colombia are believed to be particularly rich as well as home to numerous endemics. Recent fieldwork by the authors in both countries has yielded some of the first targeted, modern collections of the family since the mid-twentieth century and has made possible a focused taxonomic study of Ruellia—the second most species-rich genus of Neotropical Acanthaceae.
The present study contributes a taxonomic revision of the 29 species of Venezuelan Ruellia, including in-depth assessments of type material for all names, new typifications, extensive discussion of taxonomy, biogeography, and ecology of species; field photographs of species and habitats and botanical illustrations of species not previously illustrated; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conservation assessments (for the 13 endemic species only); ArcGIS-based maps showing geographical distributions as well as protected areas; and dichotomous keys to facilitate identification of all 29 species. Most collections of Ruellia derive from regions of Venezuela not currently contained within a protected area. Of the 13 endemics, three were assessed as Critically Endangered, five as Endangered, two as Vulnerable, one as Near Threatened, one as Data Deficient, and one as Extinct. Thus, all but four are at severe risk of extinction in the wild, highlighting the growing crisis around habitat destruction in the Neotropics.
Manuel Luján is a Ph.D. candidate at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, where he is studying the phylogenetic systematics and taxonomy of the neotropical genus Clusia (Clusiaceae). He attended the Universidad de Los Andes, Venezuela, where he obtained his bachelor degree in biology with emphasis in plant ecology and botany in 2009, and received his M.Sc. in botany in 2013. He has participated in several floristic inventories in diverse habitats in Venezuela, including urban vegetation, lowland wet forest relicts, mountain cloud forests and high elevation p áramos. He worked at the Instituto Jard¡n Bot ánico de M‚rida, where he participated in a restoration project for sustainable cocoa production. He conducted a study on the taxonomy of the genus Croton (Euphorbiaceae) in the Venezuelan Andes, and has been involved in a number of projects studying systematics in Acanthaceae, including fieldwork in several regions in Central and South America. Manuel Lujan's Author Page
Erin A. Tripp is based at The University of Colorado Boulder and there serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Curator of Botany in the Museum of Natural History. Dr. Tripp is an evolutionary biologist and systematist, and her research emphasizes the diversity and distributions of flowering plants as well as lichens. Erin's botanical interests center around the tropical plant family Acanthaceae, especially the genus Ruellia, for which she has traveled extensively around the world to understand the ecology and natural history of ca. 400 species in the genus. She maintains a long-term research program focused on lichen biodiversity, primarily in the southern Appalachian Mountains but more recently also in Colorado. In her spare time, she enjoys trail running in the southern Rocky Mountains and learning to fly airplanes. She lives in the mountains above Boulder. Erin A. Tripp's Author Page