Flagellate Plant Evolution

For the first ~300 million years of plant life on land, Earth’s flora consisted entirely of flagellate plants, which today include approximately 30,000 species of bryophytes, lycophytes, ferns, and gymnosperms. Numerous major innovations, including stomata, vascular tissue, roots and leaves, woody stems, and seeds, evolved first in flagellate plant ancestors. The flagellate plants not only provide a window to the early evolution of these critical features, but are represented today by vibrant and diverse lineages that contribute substantially to global ecology, particularly via contributions to global carbon and nitrogen cycles. We are working to improve our understanding of the history and relationships of the flagellate plants by using new sequencing technologies to produce a species-level phylogeny for these taxa that is linked to an immense and varied amount of data on fossils, phenomic characters, and geospatial distributions. Education experts will develop an online educational tool for training the next generation of biodiversity scientists by providing an accessible framework for using the project data in university classrooms while promoting evidence-based teaching practices. A MicroPlants citizen science project will promote scientific literacy and plant awareness in the general public, through museums and schools. This project is a collaboration with the Burleigh, Davis, McDaniel, and Antonenko labs at UF, and at the Field Museum (Matt von Konrat and Eve Gaus) and University of Arizona (Hong Cui). Visit the GoFlag website.