Annals of Botany

Morphology, phylogeny and adaptation

The study of plant evolution and development in a phylogenetic context has accelerated research advances in both areas over the last decade. The addition of a robust phylogeny for virtually all plant taxa based on DNA as well as morphology has given a strong context for this research. Genetics and genomics, including sequencing of many genes, and a better understanding of non-genetic, responsive changes, by plants has increased knowledge of how the different body forms of plants have arisen. Heslop-Harrison overviews the papers in this Special Issue, bringing together a range of papers that link phylogeny and morphology, leading to models of development and functional adaptation across a range of plant systems.

Plant adaptation arises from their morphology, itself a product of evolution and development.
Plant adaptation arises from their morphology, itself a product of evolution and development. In this figure, the aspects and interactions of research at different levels are shown, with the work having implications across botany, including understanding plant phylogeny and speciation, and for ecology and ecosystems.

The articles in this special issue include studies of a diverse range of species from many ecosystems, using the full range of techniques available to the botanist. All the papers discuss fundamental research, with largely non-crop species, but the implications for both crop production and ecosystem or environmental conservation are apparent in all. As genes involved in morphology become more widely understood, we can improve outcomes and consider what is needed from crops – the superdomestication concept, deciding what is needed and then looking for the source of genes to deliver that requirement (considered in another Special Issue on Domestication). Domestication genes may become a potent area of interest for future morphological adaptations: perhaps increasing the number of species where it is worthwhile to farm them.

This paper is part of the Special Issue on Morphology and Adaptation. It is FREE access for a limited period to the end of January 2018. It will then be free access from November 2018.

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