Research of the Department of Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants

Research in our Department deals with the evolution, phylogeny, and taxonomy of angiosperms.

Evolution, phylogeny and taxonomy of flowering plants (Prof. E. Hörandl):
Flowering plants harbor the greatest species diversity of all land plants. The evolutionary processes that have led to their diversity and the global distribution are manifold: polyploidy, hybridization, a broad range of reproductive strategies, and adaptive radiations are key factors for the success of flowering plants. The combination of DNA markers, karyological, morphological and reproductive data helps to understand speciation, dispersal and evolutionary history of flowering plants.

We focus on the evolution of temperate angiosperms and elucidate the role of hybridization and modes of reproductive systems for diversification processes via population genetic studies, ploidy screenings and studies of breeding systems. Apomixis, the asexual reproduction via seed, is a frequent trait in temperate, arctic and high alpine species complexes, and probably a widespread reproductive strategy in tropical trees. Understanding the frequencies, the genetic basis and the biogeographical success of apomictic plants will elucidate the evolution of flowering plants and help to understand basic evolutionary questions like the “paradox of sex”.

Working Groups:

Apomixis, polyploidy and evolution of the Ranunculus auricomus group (Prof. Elvira Hörandl, Birthe Barke, Dr. Ladislav Hodac): Hybrid origin, establishment of apomixis, and diversification of this polyploid complex is being studied by experimental crosses, developmental studies, next generation sequencing analysis and geometric morphometrics.

Effects of environmental stress on apomixis in Ranunculus (Prof. Elvira Hörandl, Christoph Schinkel, Eleni Syngelaki, Fuad Ulum Bahrul): Here we test experimentally the hypothesis that environmental stress (light, temperature) affects mode of reproduction and DNA methylation profiles.

Phylogeny and reticulate evolution in willows (Salix) (Prof. Elvira Hörandl, Dr. Natascha Wagner, Dr. Susanne Gramlich, Dr. Li He): By using next generation sequencing methods (RAD Seq) we reconstruct the phylogeny and evolution of the genus, and we study in situ hybrid evolution in natural populations.

Developmental biology, karyology and evolution of grasses (Dr. Diego Hojsgaard, Piyal Karunarathne): Analysis of the nature of cytotype and genotype diversity in connection with geographic distribution, reproductive syndromes and ploidy levels in South American natural populations of Paspalum species.

Rutaceae Phylogeny, Biogeography and Taxonomy (Dr. Marc Appelhans, Claudia Pätzold): Phylogenetic analysis using DNA sequence analysis, next generation sequencing and morphological data aims at a reconstruction of diversification processes of the Citrus family in space and time.