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Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy as a non-destructive method for analysing herbarium specimens.

Barnes, M; Sule-Suso, J; Millett, J; Roach, P

Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy as a non-destructive method for analysing herbarium specimens. Thumbnail


M Barnes

J Millett

P Roach


Dried plant specimens stored in herbaria are an untapped treasure chest of information on environmental conditions, plant evolution and change over many hundreds of years. Owing to their delicate nature and irreplaceability, there is limited access for analysis to these sensitive samples, particularly where chemical data are obtained using destructive techniques. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is a chemical analysis technique which can be applied non-destructively to understand chemical bonding information and, therefore, functional groups within the sample. This provides the potential for understanding geographical, spatial and species-specific variation in plant biochemistry. Here, we demonstrate the use of mid-FTIR microspectroscopy for the chemical analysis of Drosera rotundifolia herbarium specimens, which were collected 100 years apart from different locations. Principal component and hierarchical clustering analysis enabled differentiation between three main regions on the plant (lamina, tentacle stalk and tentacle head), and between the different specimens. Lipids and protein spectral regions were particularly sensitive differentiators of plant tissues. Differences between the different sets of specimens were smaller. This study demonstrates that relevant information can be extracted from herbarium specimens using FTIR, with little impact on the specimens. FTIR, therefore, has the potential to be a powerful tool to unlock historic information within herbaria.

Acceptance Date Feb 27, 2023
Publication Date Mar 22, 2023
Journal Biology Letters
Electronic ISSN 1744-957X
Publisher The Royal Society
Volume 19
Issue 3
Article Number 20220546
Keywords non-destructive; hierarchical cluster analysis; principal component analysis; Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; herbarium
Publisher URL


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