Developmental transitions during the evolution of plant form

Jane A. Langdale, C. Jill Harrison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

21 Citations (Scopus)


THE INVASION OF LAND Land plants evolved from aquatic algal ancestors. The algae are a polyphyletic group from which the transition to land, and acquisition of developmental features associated with land plants, have occurred many times (Lewis and McCourt 2004). Recent phylogenetic evidence points to the charophyte algal lineage as the sister group to the land plants (Figure 16.1). Developmental features shared by charophytes and land plants are cell cleavage by phragmoplasts, plasmodesmatal connections between cells, and a placental link between haploid and diploid phases of growth (Marchant and Pickett-Heaps 1973). These and other features of derived charophytes, in particular growth from an apical cell in the gametophyte (Graham 1996, Graham et al. 2000), suggest that many of the cellular characteristics required for the development of land plants may have evolved within their common stem group. FROM HAPLOID TO DIPLOID The major character that distinguishes land plants from charophyte algae is the development of a diploid embryo. In charophytes, the majority of the life cycle is represented by the haploid gametophyte and only the unicellular zygote is diploid, undergoing meiosis immediately after formation. Embryo development represents a major growth transition in that meiotic division of the zygote is delayed and diploid sporophytic cells divide by mitosis, giving rise to a multicellular body. Although in the earliest land plants the gametophyte generation remained dominant, this transition in growth pattern led to a dramatic change in life history such that the sporophyte generation gradually became the dominant form (Graham 1985, Kenrick 1994, Graham and Wilcox 2000).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolving Pathways: Key Themes in Evolutionary Developmental Biology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780511541582, 9780521875004
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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