Science and popular culture have hilariously collided, with DNA sequencing revealing what were previously classified as a closely-related species and subspecies of Daviesia are actually two separate ‘unlikely twin’ species.
The discovery has prompted taxonomists to reclassify the species as Daviesia schwarzenegger and Daveisia devito respectively, after the 1980s classic movie in which the stars – played by Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzeneggar – discover they’re long lost twins – the accidental result of a medical experiment to create the perfect human being.
Professor Mike Crisp from the Australian National University has led a team studying the peas, a number of species collectively referred to as ‘eggs and bacon,’ for decades. It is only with the advent of DNA analysis that the two have been discovered to be seperate species. Professor Crisp said:
“When I was a young taxonomist we classified plants based on their external, physical appearance, that’s all we really had to go on. Then the revolution of DNA technology came along. Suddenly there was much more data available to work out exactly their genetic and evolutionary relationships.”
Professor Crisp said it was a surprise that what was thought to be a subspecies was actually another entirely different species, because they outwardly appeared to be so similar as to be closely related. “It’s such an unlikely pair of twins, if you like,” he said.
The two new species look very similar, differing only in size, with Daveisia schwarzenegger being larger and more robust than its shorter ‘twin’, Daveisia devito.
A not-so-rosy part of the story, the two species are currently under threat of extinction. They are endemic to areas of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales that are being cleared to grow wheat.