Evolution of Angiosperm Trees: From Palaeobotany To Genomics

Evolution of Angiosperm Trees: From Palaeobotany To Genomics

Quentin C.B. Cronk and Félix Forest

Cite as: Cronk, Q.C.B. & Forest, F. (2017) Evolution of Angiosperm Trees: From Palaeobotany To Genomics. Chapter 1, pp. 1-17. In: Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics of Angiosperm Trees. Groover, A.T & Cronk, Q.C.B. (eds). Springer, New York.

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Abstract Quentin C.B. Cronk and Félix Forest
Abstract Angiosperm trees now rival the largest conifers in height and many species reach over 80 m high. The large tree life form, with extensive secondary xylem, originated with the progymnosperms and gymnosperms in the Devonian and Carboniferous. However evidence suggests that the ancestor of extant angiosperms was not a tree but either a herb or understory shrub. Angiosperm fossil woods are rare in the early Cretaceous but become common in the mid-Cretaceous. The “reinvention” of wood in the Cretaceous produced a novel xylary morphospace that has since been extensively explored by subsequent evolution. Today, large timber trees are absent in the early diverging lineages of the angiosperms, and conventional wood has been lost in the monocots. There are a few timber trees in the magnoliid clade. Most timber trees are in the rosid clade, particularly the fabids (e.g. Fabaceae) but also in the Malvids (e.g. Meliaceae). Timber trees are less common in the strongly herbaceous asterid clade but some important timbers are also found in this lineage such as teak, Tectona grandis (Lamiaceae). Genomic resources for angiosperm trees are developing rapidly and this, coupled with the huge variation in woody habit, make angiosperm trees a highly prom- ising comparative system for understanding wood evolution at the molecular level.

Keywords Wood • Fossils • Evolution • Xylogenesis

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