The Botanical Review

, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 395–418 | Cite as

Homologous Versus Antithetic Alternation of Generations and the Origin of Sporophytes

  • David Haig


The late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century debate over homologous versus antithetic alternation of generations is reviewed. Supporters of both theories, at first, used Coleochaete as a model for the origin of land-plant life cycles. The early debate focused on the morphological interpretation of the sporophyte and on whether vascular cryptogams had bryophyte-like ancestors. The terms of the debate shifted after the discovery that the alternation of morphological generations was accompanied by an alternation of chromosome number. Supporters of homologous alternation now promoted a model in which land plants had been derived from an algal ancestor with an isomorphic alternation of haploid and diploid generations whereas supporters of antithetic alternation favored a model in which land plants were derived from a haploid algal ancestor with zygotic meiosis. Modern evidence that embryophytes are derived from charophycean green algae is more compatible with an updated version of the antithetic theory.


Alternation of Generations Apogamy Apospory Coleochaete Dictyota Embryophytes Gametophyte Sporophyte 



The author thanks Richard Bondi, Jan Engelstädter, Lone Frank, Hans Hofmann, Judith Ryan and Richard Thomas for help with translations and the staffs of the Ernst Mayr and Harvard University Herbaria libraries for bibliographic assistance. The manuscript has benefited from the helpful comments of Richard Bondi, Chuck Davis, Jessica Girard, and Dennis Stevenson.

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© The New York Botanical Garden 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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