Cold origin of land plants? (CRYOTER)

Sampling of glacial algae (Zygnematales) on glacial surfaces and ice margins during summer (active community) and winter (resting stages) will enable to get material for cultivation and molecular analyses in order to clarify their phylogenetic position within Streptophytes).

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  • field work


  • cryosphere

Project Keywords

  • biological classification / plants / microalgae
  • cryosphere / glaciers/ice sheets / glaciers
  • biosphere / aquatic habitat

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The origin and diversification of land plants was one of the most important biological radiations. The attempts to better understand the evolutionary process recieved continuous attention since the delimitation of Streptophyta (a phyllum consisting of green Charophycean algae and Embryophytes). The split of Chlorophyta (the rest of green algae) and Streptophyta was probably crucial for the colonization of terrestrial habitat and it coincides with large glaciation events of the Cryogenian. Here we propose a possible role of life on glacial surfaces - an abundant aquatic biotop in the late Neoproterozoic - in the evolution of land plants. According to current knowledge, the sister lineage of Embryophytes is the highly diversified order Zygnematales (Desmids). At the same time the typical eukaryotic photosynthetic inhabitant of the bare ice in ablation zones of recent glaciers is a Desmid belonging on morphological basis to the genera Cylindrocystis, Ancylonema or Mesotaenium. This project focuses on sampling, cultivation, sequencing and characterization of the autecology of these organisms in two regions of the Arctic (Svalbard and Greenland) to integrate them into the dynamic mozaic of the phylogeny of Streptophyta in order to clarify whether they could be the crucial player in the origin of land plants.

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