Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 283, Issue 3–4, pp 149–164 | Cite as

Evaluating the diversity of pteridophyte embryology in the light of recent phylogenetic analyses leads to new inferences on character evolution

  • Gabriel P. Johnson
  • Karen S. Renzaglia
Original Article


This is the first review of the developmental morphology of pteridophyte embryos since molecular phylogenies revolutionized concepts of tracheophyte evolution. In the light of these novel relationships, embryo characters are evaluated across pteridophytes to hypothesize homology and infer character transformations. Salient features of traditional categories used to classify pteridophyte embryos, for example endoscopy and exoscopy, are analyzed and related to gametophyte habit. Suspensor formation evolved in several lineages and is reinterpreted as representing a distinct developmental stage of the foot which is the only embryonic organ that is homologous across all land plants. Endoscopy in lycophytes is distinct from that of monilophytes, because lycophyte embryos undergo reorientation, lack interdigitating placental cells, and contain an interplacental space which may be related to their lack of a basal pad cell during archegonial development. Pteridophyte embryology may provide clues to tracheophytes evolution and novel developmental mechanisms.


Embryo Pteridophyte Evolution Fern Lycophyte Placenta Suspensor Transfer cell Development 



The authors would like to thank Regina D. Kettering and Pamela Robbins for translating the German texts, Dr Jeffrey Duckett for his helpful comments, and the Renzaglia laboratory for their support. Funding for this work was provided by grants (DEB-0322664, DEB-0423625, DEB-052177, and DEB-0228679) through the National Science Foundation as part of the Assembling the Tree of Life Project.


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© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanySmithsonian Institution, MSC A1014 SuitlandUSA
  2. 2.Green Plant Morphology Group, Department of Plant BiologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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