Land Plant Evolution: Phylogenetics and Beyond
Kenrick, Paul .
What do fossils tell us about the evolution of land plants?
LAND plants inherited their biochemistry from the green algae, but most of their morphology evolved on land. The early fossil record of land plants therefore provides unique insights into the evolution and crucially the homologies of fundamental tissues and organ systems. Hypotheses of organ evolution that are informed by fossils provide the most complete framework for exploring basic aspects of morphogenesis in plants. The fossil record is also providing unanticipated new data on the early stages of life cycle evolution. In addition, supplementary evidence from spores and pollen afford, in principal at least, a much tighter stratigraphic control for calibrating phylogenetic trees than that available for many other groups of organisms. In recent years, the integration of fossils into phylogenetic studies and the accumulation of palynological data have shown that a straightforward reading of the rocks and their macrofossil content in terms of the presence of taxonomic groups and timing of events is misleading. Spores predate macrofossils by a long way, and direct fossil evidence for certain key early lineages is scant at best. These findings indicate that whereas the fossil record is informative about early vascular plant evolution, there is much still to learn about the origins of bryophytes and the aquatic antecedents of land plants.
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1 - Natural History Museum, Paleontology Department, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Date: Monday, July 31st, 2006
Time: 2:35 PM