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Extinct species rediscovered

11th November 2003

A rare moss, the Aspen Bristle Moss, which was thought to be extinct in the UK has been rediscovered growing in the new Cairngorms National Park.

Despite many searches, its small size and unassuming appearance meant that it was overlooked in the intervening years, until local moss enthusiast, Andy Amphlett and his colleagues Gordon Rothero and Chris Ellis discovered it growing on Aspen trees at three sites in August and September.

“I am delighted by this find.  It is not everyday you get to rediscover an apparently extinct species in the UK” Andy said.

Peter Cosgrove, the Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan Officer, is pleased that this discovery coincides with the Cairngorms becoming a new National Park, commenting: “This latest finding is one of a string of fantastic discoveries associated with Aspens in the Cairngorms and goes to show how much there is still to learn about one of the most studied places in Scotland.  It is the moss expert’s equivalent of finding a healthy population of Lynx or Bison living in the Cairngorms!” he said.

As part of Plantlife’s Back from the Brink plant conservation programme, Plantlife Scotland is delighted with this great success. Deborah Long, Plantlife Scotland’s Conservation Officer said “Against the current ongoing declines amongst many of our rarest species, this discovery is a real encouragement but also one that serves to remind us that we still know comparatively little about our ecosystems and they way they work”.

The Aspen Bristle Moss (Orthotrichum gymnostomum) has only been found once before, at Rothiemurchus in 1966, when it gained the dubious distinction of being both discovered and becoming extinct on the same day, after the only known specimen was collected for identification.