Introduction to Plant Diversity and Structure

Objectives Be able to identify the representative plants from the lab activity Know the distinguishing features of each representative plant, including its phylum and higher clades, habitat, specialized structures, life cycle (where discussed), and ecological importance Be able to identify the plant structures and their functions addressed in this lab exercise Define and be able to apply the terms in bold found throughout this exercise. Introduction Perhaps one of the most revolutionary events to occur in the history of life on Earth occurred during the Paleozoic era about 700 million years ago. This event was the colonization of land, first by plants and then by animals and fungi. Comparisons between extant land plants and divisions of algae suggest the first land plants were related to the green algae. Green algae share many characteristics with land plants including the presence of chlorophyll a and b, cell walls made out of cellulose, and the storage of excess carbohydrates as starch, produced in amyloplasts. Molecular and ultrastructural data suggest the land plants most likely descended from a group of green algae called the charophyceans. As descendants of green algae, plants should be considered members of the supergroup Archaeplastida. The modern charophyceans and their relatives, modern land plants comprise a clade which is a subgroup of the archaeplastids, Streptophyta. The synapomorphies which distinguish the streptophytes are plasmodesmata, anisogamous sexual reproduction and a particular form of cytokinesis. Land plants, commonly known as the Kingdom Plantae, but also referred to as the clade Embryophyta, are a subgroup of the streptophytes. The synapomorphies which distinguish the plants from other streptophytes are the presence of meristems, regions of continuously growing tissues and cell division, alternation of generations, maternally dependent embryos, specialized structures for production of reproductive cells (sporangia and gametangia) and dessication-resistant structures to protect reproductive cells during dispersal (see Brooker et al. 2011, p 588, Fig. 29.1). Once these primitive plants arrived on land, they faced new and extreme challenges in their physical environment. Variations in temperature, moisture, substrate, and gravitational forces would create a selective regimen from which new and different adaptations and forms would emerge: the land plants. The evolution of land plants involved a number of adaptations that were unnecessary to algae. For example, rhizoids and later roots were adapted as a means of absorbing minerals and nutrients from the surrounding soil since land plants were no longer surrounded by an aqueous medium source. One feature that distinguishes land plants from algae is the development of the gametangium, which prevents the embryo from drying out in the terrestrial environment. The body of a plant is also often covered with a waxy cuticle to prevent desiccation (drying out). However, the presence of this waxy covering also prevents exchange of

Note that both gametes and spores are haploid in this life cycle. The difference between these two cells is that the spores form a haploid gametophyte plant while the gametes fuse with each other to form the diploid zygote. In present day land plants. which in turn produce haploid gametes by mitosis. However. 1). The gametes (egg and sperm) fuse and form a diploid zygote. mitosis germination gametophyte generation (n) mitosis spores (n) gametes: sperm & ova (n) meiosis sporophyte generation (2n) fertilization Figure 1. The spores produce the haploid gametophytes. Ten phyla of plants are currently recognized. With the exception of bryophytes (liverworts. This diploid zygote grows into a multicellular sporophyte and the cycle continues. Most land plants have a common sexual reproductive cycle called alternation of generations. and these can be thought of as occurring in four major groups. protective structure called the sporangium. Some land plants have developed vascular tissue that allows for efficient movement of materials throughout their complex bodies. in which plants alternate between a haploid gametophyte generation and a diploid sporophyte generation (Fig. the diploid sporophyte generation is the dominant generation. The reproductive cycle of plants is also adapted to the terrestrial environment.gas. Eggs are produced in the archegonia and sperm are produced in the antheridia. The nontracheophytes (also called bryophytes. Many variations on this theme exist in different groups of plants and algae. unlike the animal life cycle. A basic model of alternation of generations. the plant life cycle produces spores by meiosis and gametes by mitosis. but this name is unfortunately a source of confusion because “bryophyte” also refers . a problem solved by the presence of specialized pores called the stomata. and mosses). these two generations differ in morphology. hornworts. according to their characteristics. The sporophyte generation produces haploid spores through meiosis. Spores are produced in a specialized.

spike mosses. Keep in mind that the four groupings (nontracheophytes. Other seed bearing plants have seeds develop within a vessel known as an ovary. and its members are generally known as angiosperms and more popularly as flowering plants. The Phylum Pteridophyta (ferns) and the Phylum Lycopodiophyta (club mosses. Phylum Hepatophyta (liverworts) and Phylum Anthocerophyta (hornworts). seedless vascular plants. include those species whose ancestors evolved complex vascular tissue. The Phylum Coniferophyta.to a member of a particular phylum of nontracheophytes) lack complex vascular tissues. also known as ferns and fern allies. an important evolutionary innovation. what are the major trends? 4. The Phylum Anthophyta is the only phylum of this group. in which case they are referred to as gymnosperms. As plant life has evolved over the last 500 million years. The seedless vascular plants. Another important innovation in plant evolution was the production of the seed. quillworts) are seedless vascular plants. angiosperms) do not necessarily represent clades (in the sense of monophyletic groups). keep in mind the following questions: 1. How are the specialized structures related to function in the terrestrial environment? 3. to the best of current knowledge. which matures and ripens into a fruit. Seed-bearing plants may have so-called naked seeds. The phyla without complex vascular tissues are the Phylum Bryophyta (true mosses). To help remember the major themes of this lab. although the phyla are clades. What are the specialized adaptations that make it possible for plant life in the terrestrial environment? 2. a protective covering for a plant embryo. Phylum Gnetophyta and Phylum Ginkgophyta are all considered gymnosperms. How has the reproductive cycle of alternation of generations been modified in the successive groups of plants? . gymnosperms. Phylum Cycadophyta.

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