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Plant Systematics

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.

Syllabus with Course Materials

Unit 1 FB

General Introduction to Systematics: Taxonomy, Classification and Biological nomenclature; Tree of life, Root of ToL and 6 kingdoms of Cavalier- Smith, Concepts of species and hierarchical taxa, Speciation, The species problem, Biological nomenclature, Overview of ICN rules (Melbourne Code), Introduction of Molecular Systematics (Phylogenetic Systematics)

Fascinating world of Plants

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.
Cavalier-Smith, T., Only six kingdoms of life. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2004. 271(1545): p. 1251.
Woese, C.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.
Species Concepts & Speciation
Zoomable Tree of Life

Unit 2 FB

Overview of  Algal Systematics: Origin of plants, primary and secondary endosymbiosis, major microalgae, major macroalgae, Kingdom Chromista in detail, Kingdom Plantae (minus Embryophytes) 


Bast et al 2014-General introduction to seaweeds
Illustrated review of seaweed culture and lifecycle
Freshwater algae

Unit 3 FB

    Overview of  Cryptogamie Systematics: Embryophytes, Bryophytes, Trachaeophytes, Monilophytes (Pteridophytes)


Unit 4 DMS

    Overview of  Gymnosperm Systematics: Cycadales, Ginkgoales, Coniferales

Unit 5 DMS

    Overview of  Angiosperm Systematics: Anita Grade, Magnolids, Monocots, Eudicots, Caryophyllales, Rosids, Fabids, Malvids, Asterids, Lamids

Unit 6 FB

    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.

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