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Plant Diversity and Resources

Journal of Systematics and Evolution

Volume 46 Issue 3, Pages 287C306.

Published Online: 18 May 2008

DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1002.2008.08035

Phylogeny and evolution of charophytic algae and land plants

Yin-Long QIU

(Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, The University Herbarium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1048, USA)ylqiu@umich.edu

Keywords: charophytes;evolution;gravitropism;land plants;life cycle;multicellularity;origin;phragmoplast;phylogeny;plasmodesmata;the tree of life

Charophytic algae and land plants together make up a monophyletic group, streptophytes, which represents one of the main lineages of multicellular eukaryotes and has contributed greatly to change of the environment on earth in the Phanerozoic Eon. Significant progress has been made to understand phylogenetic relationships among members of this group by phylogenetic studies of morphological and molecular data over the last twenty-five years. Mesostigma viride is now regarded as among the earliest diverging unicellular organisms in streptophytes. Characeae are the sister group to land plants. Liverworts represent the first diverging lineage of land plants. Hornworts and lycophytes are extant representatives of bryophytes and vascular plants, respectively, when early land plants changed from gametophyte to sporophyte as the dominant generation in the life cycle. Equisetum, Psilotaceae, and ferns constitute the monophyletic group of monilophytes, which are sister to seed plants. Gnetales are related to conifers, not to angiosperms as previously thought. Amborella, Nymphaeales, Hydatellaceae, Illiciales, Trimeniaceae, and Austrobaileya represent the earliest diverging lineages of extant angiosperms. These phylogenetic results, together with recent progress on elucidating genetic and developmental aspects of the plant life cycle, multicellularity, and gravitropism, will facilitate evolutionary developmental studies of these key traits, which will help us to gain mechanistic understanding on how plants adapted to environmental challenges when they colonized the land during one of the major transitions in evolution of life.

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