Many of the characteristics that distinguish plants from other living organisms can be traced to their origin early in the history of life. Features such as a multicellular haploid life stage, prevalent hermaphroditism, self-fertilization, and general dependence on biotic and abiotic vectors for reproduction stem directly from the ability of plants to obtain energy from the sun. This novel mode of energy capture had far-ranging implications for plant evolution. It not only fueled the tremendous diversification of life on Earth, but also had far-ranging implications for the evolution of early photosynthetic organisms and eventually land plants. Understanding the evolutionary processes for the proliferation and diversification of plants requires an appreciation of their unique biological features. While the processes of mutation, selection, genetic drift, and gene flow are the same for both plants and animals, there are specific characteristics of plants that affect their evolution. Unique traits of plants affect everything from the fate of mutations, to exposure to selection in the haploid life stage, to the distribution of genetic variation within and among populations, and ultimately the rates and patterns of diversification. This book examines the origins of the unique features of plants and the implications of these features for evolutionary processes. Author Mitchell B. Cruzan provides discussion of contemporary topics such as population genetics, phylogeography, phylogenetics, ecological genetics, and genomics. The content covered is essential to a wide range of advanced courses in plant biology.
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