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Plant Systematics: Cryptogams

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Course Logistics

This twenty-weeks long course is designed to introduce students of Biosciences to the exciting world of diversity of living organisms: numerical approaches to quantify the staggering biodiversity and interrelationship of organisms in the light of evolutionary thought: Biosystematics.

PowerPoint slides of lectures will be available here. The lectures build on each other, so you should view them in the order listed. The few lectures listed as "Honors" or "Optional" will not be covered on the quizzes but are provided in case you want to go into more depth.

Course textbook is Plant Systematics by Judd et al. Amazon Link


Short ungraded exercises will occasionally be embedded into lectures. Each lecture will be followed by ungraded exercises. Answers to these exercises will be given and explained after you reply to the questions. These exercises do not introduce new material, but they enable you to check your understanding of the lectures. If you miss too many of the exercises after a lecture, then you might want to listen to that lecture again.

Time Commitment

You should expect to spend on about 2 hours per week watching the lectures, another 2 hours per week doing the exercises, and about 1 hour on each quiz. You might want to spend additional time doing the reading and participating in the discussion forums.

Online Q&A Section

Google Group

Hangouts Group Video Chat Session

Next Google Hangouts Group Video Chat Session is scheduled on August 22, 2017 4PM-5PM Indian Standard Time

How to join?
    Just click on the above image on the schedule. I will be available 5 minutes before the schedule. Make sure you are on a mic, and at a well-lit place. Hangouts works on mobile phones as well with Hangouts application.

Previous schedules (2016)
August 23
Sep 6
Sep 22
Oct 4
Oct 20

Syllabus with Course Materials

Unit 1 FB

General Introduction to Systematics: Taxonomy, Classification and Biological nomenclature; use of dichotomous taxonomic keys, Basic Latin used in systematics, Concepts of species and hierarchical taxa, Speciation: Allopatry, Sympatry, Parapatry and Peripatry; Reproductive isolation mechanisms, The species problem, International Code of Botanic Nomenclature (ICN): principles of priority, typification, effective and valid publications; voucher specimens in plant systematics, herbarium vouchers and herbariums


Taxonomy-(Course overview, Taxonomy-Basics, ICN, Tree of Life)

Root of the Tree of Life

Species Concepts & Speciation


Unit 2 FB

Overview of  Algal Systematics: Tthe tree of life with special focus on kingdom plantae, Cyanobacteria and picoplankton; primary, secondary and tertiary endosymbiosis; systematics of superkingdom Chromalveolata, dinoflagellates and HABs, diatoms, brown algae; systematics of superkingdom archeplastida, biliphyta, rhodophyta, glaucophyta, viridaeplantae, chlorophyta and streptophyta; ecological and economic importance of algae, algal life cycles, algal cultivation methods, algal resources of India.


Fascinating World of Plants: (Tree of life with a focus on algae, Algal Life Cycles and cultivation methods, Algal resources of India and Antarctica)



N Patterson, DJ Richter, S Gnerre, ES Lander, D Reich - Nature, 2006 -
TR Disotell - Genome Biol, 2006 -
EA Dyson, GDD Hurst - … Academy of Sciences of the United …, 2004 - National Acad Sciences
CK Cornwallis, SA West, KE Davis, AS Griffin - 2010 -
LL Knowles, TA Markow - Proceedings of the National …, 2001 - National Acad Sciences
P Forterre, H Philippe - BioEssays, 1999
I Letunic, P Bork - Bioinformatics, 2007
JM Archibald - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA
Brummitt, R., Taxonomy versus cladonomy, a fundamental controversy in biological systematics. Taxon, 1997. 46(4): p. 723-734. PDF
Cavalier-Smith, T., Only six kingdoms of life. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2004. 271(1545): p. 1251. PDF

R., O. Kandler, and M.L. Wheelis, Towards a natural system of organisms: proposal for the domains Archaea, Bacteria, and Eucarya. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1990. 87(12): p. 4576.

Unit 3 KKC

    Overview of  Bryophyte Systematics: Defining features of embryophytes, Classification of bryophytes; Major phylogenetic groups: Liverworts, non-peristomate, peristomate, and hornworts, Origin and evolution of heterotrichy in plants; Comparative account of gametophyte structure; Sporophytic structure and evolution; Peristome structure and its significance in the classification of Mosses, Moss life cycle, Common mosses of India, ecological and economic importance of mosses.       

Unit 4 KKC

    Overview of  Pteridophyte Systematics: Defining features of tracheophytes, Classification of pteridophytes; Euphyllophytes, Evolution of vascular systems in plants; Early vascular plants: Rhyniophyta, Trimerophylophyta and Zosterophylophyta; Major phylogenetic groups: Lycophytes and Monilophytes; Brief account of structure and reproduction in Ferns; Telome concept, apogamy and apospory, heterospory and seed habit, Common ferns of India, ecological and economic importance of ferns.

Unit 5 FB (Additional material, not in the syllabus)

    Overview of  Molecular Systematics: Principles of molecular systematics, multiple sequence alignment, distance based methods and discrete methods for phylogenetic reconstruction

Suggested Reading:

1.      Hall, B.G. (2011). Phylogenetic Trees Made Easy: A How-To Manual. Sinauer Associates, Inc. USA. Amazon Link

2.      Hennig, W., Dwight, D. and Zangerl, R. (1999). Phylogenetic Systematics. University of Illinois Press, USA. 

3.      Judd, W.S., Campbell, C.S., Kellogg, E.A., Stevens, P.F. and Donoghue, M.J. (2007). Plant Systematics, A Phylogenetic Approach. Sinauer Associates, Inc. USA.DropBox Link  Amazon Link

4.      Schuh, R.T. and Brower, A.V.Z. (2009). Biological Systematics: Principles and Applications. Comstock Pub Assoc.

Assignments and Quiz

Submit assignment-2 here. Guidelines in the "Taxonomy-Basics" presentation

Related Resources

General Links

Suggested documentaries (for copies approach me)

  1. BBC.Botany.A.Blooming.History
  2. BBC.Wonders.of.Life 5 documentaries
  3. The Private Life of Plants - 5 Documentaries
  4. BBC David Attenborough's First Life
  5. BBC - Planet Earth 11 Documentaries


About Podcasts: Podcasts are recorded radio shows. One can use apps such as Podcast Addict or iTunes to subscribe to the podcasts. New episodes will be downloaded to the devise automatically, and as we listen, old episodes will be replaced with the new ones. Ideal for listening while going for daily strolls!

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