Early land plants have met the challenge of continuous range expansion, further away from water, always at risk of dehydration. Consequently, also the sexual reproduction of land plants is geared towards independency of water. Several key innovations in sexual reproduction originated in the land plant lineage, such as spores with a rigid outer surface, ovules harboring reduced female gametophytes and a multicellular embryo that is dispersed within seeds in a dehydrated state. Hence, the evolution of sexual reproduction in land plants provides stunning examples for the crucial biological concepts of „innovation“ (e.g., origin of new reproductive structures such as ovules and flowers), and „coevolution“ (e.g., between signalling peptides and receptors involved in fertilization). The evolutionary dynamics and molecular mechanisms underlying these processes are only poorly understood.

FOR 5098 aims to shed light on the evolutionary dynamics and molecular mechanisms underlying the evolution of plant sexual reproduction. The Research Unit is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), started in fall 2021 and is receiving funding for four years.

Left side: Ceratopteris richardii (fern); Middle: Marchantia polymorpha (liverwort); Right side: Physcomitrella patens (moss).
Picture of C. richardii realized by Robin Schulz (FSU), of M. polymorpha realized by Melanie Trupp (UO) and of P. patens realized by Julian Ingelfinger (TUK).