Evolution of phenotypic disparity in the plant kingdom

James W Clark, Alexander J Hetherington, Jennifer L Morris, Silvia Pressel, Jeffrey G. Duckett, Mark N Puttick, Harald Schneider, Paul Kenrick, Charles H Wellman, Philip C J Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The plant kingdom exhibits diverse bodyplans, from single-celled algae to complex multicellular land plants, but it is unclear how this phenotypic disparity was achieved. Here we show that the living divisions comprise discrete clusters within morphospace, separated largely by reproductive innovations, the extinction of evolutionary intermediates and lineage-specific evolution. Phenotypic complexity correlates not with disparity but with ploidy history, reflecting the role of genome duplication in plant macroevolution. Overall, the plant kingdom exhibits a pattern of episodically increasing disparity throughout its evolutionary history, that mirrors the evolutionary floras and reflects ecological expansion facilitated by reproductive innovations. This pattern also parallels that seen in the animal and fungal kingdoms, suggesting a general pattern for the evolution of multicellular bodyplans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1618-1626
Number of pages20
JournalNature Plants
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2023


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