Short-term Visitor

Character evolution in root systems of woody plants

PI(s): Louise Comas (University of California-Davis)
Start Date: 31-Jan-2011
End Date: 11-Feb-2011
Keywords: biodiversity, comparative methods, phylogenetics, life histories, morphology

The development of terrestrial landscapes and biogeochemical cycles co-occurred with the evolution of roots, which are intimately tied to soil development and biogeochemical processes. The evolution of root-like structures was critical for the initial colonization of plants into a terrestrial environment ~440 mya. Early land plants had coarse, poorly-branched anchors in contrast to modern day species that have complex root systems with fine terminal tips. Root modifications allowed plants to further colonize and adapt to terrestrial landscapes but there has been little exploration into factors shaping these evolutions. Phylogenetic analyses of small data sets has allowed us to develop and support initial hypotheses of trait shifts along phylogenetic lines (Comas & Eissenstat, 2009, Comas & Callahan in revision) but synthesis using this and more data now available would allow us to more critically evaluate these hypotheses and understand patterns of change from a broader perspective, including understanding patterns of change within different plant groups and mechanisms coordinating changes in plant tissues. Together with collaborators in NESCent (potentially postdoctoral fellows Liam Revell & Trina Roberts), this project allows me to apply up-to-date and rigorous comparative approaches on this larger data set to identify patterns in the diverse paths of root trait shifts and test hypotheses of correlated leaf-root character evolution.

Related products