Doyle, James A. Department of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis, California.
Last reviewed:April 2018
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- Origin of land plants
- Seed plants
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The process of biological and organic change within the plant kingdom by which the characteristics of plants differ from generation to generation. Understanding of the course of plant evolution (Fig. 1) is based on several lines of evidence. The main levels (grades) of evolution have long been clear from comparisons among living plants, but the fossil record has been critical in dating evolutionary events and revealing extinct intermediates between modern groups, which are separated from each other by great morphological gaps (evolutionary changes in many characters). Plant evolution has been clarified by cladistic methods for estimating relationships among both living and fossil groups. These methods attempt to reconstruct the branching of evolutionary lines (phylogeny) by using shared evolutionary innovations (for example, presence of a structure not found in other groups) as evidence that particular organisms are descendants of the same ancestral lineage (a monophyletic group, or clade). See also: Botany; Epigenetics and plant evolution; Fossil; Macroevolution; Organic evolution; Paleobotany; Phylogeny; Plant; Plant kingdom; Plant phylogeny; Plant taxonomy
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