Plant Diversity and Evolution

BIO 203 Introductory Biology II Lab SU 2020 (Remote)

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Lab 2- Plant Diversity and Evolution


Plants are a dominant component of terrestrial ecosystems and are the source of energy for the majority of other terrestrial organisms. Modern plants descended from an ancestral plant that lived in an aquatic environment. We will study the evolutionary history of the plant kingdom to better understand the selective forces that have shaped plants’ development and led to the diversity of forms in existence today.


We will examine the similarities and differences between members of the Kingdom Plantae and the red, brown, and green algae. Of the three groups of algae, green algae are the closest living relatives to modern land plants. Adaptations for the transition from an aquatic to a terrestrial habitat distinguish members of the plant kingdom.

Plant Diversity and Evolution

Plants have been evolving for at least 450 million years, and based on their major adaptive features, five major plant lineages (taxonomic groups) are currently recognized. This exercise will introduce each of these groups. Throughout the lab discussing plant evolution and diversity, a good strategy is to understand the major characteristics of each group, which characteristics are unique to a group, or are found across groups, and how these characteristics reflect adaptations to different environmental conditions.


By the end of this lab you should have a working understanding of:

  • The origins of plants and the major factors shaping their evolution.
  • Plant features that are adaptations to the terrestrial environment.
  • The major plant lineages and features that are characteristic of each group.
  • The evolutionary relationships among the nonvascular plants, seedless vascular plants, nonflowering seed plants, and flowering seed plants.


Use your BIO 202 Textbook and lecture materials to provide further background information on this evolutionary process.


The Evolutionary Process from Charophytes to Flowering Plants


  1. For each of the evolutionary “steps” listed below between the four major groups of plants, identify the novel adaptation that sets the later-appearing group (listed second) from the first AND describe why this adaptation isbeneficial. (5 points possible each part, 20 points possible total)
    1. Charophytes à Non-Vascular Plants (Bryophytes)
    2. Non-vascular Plants àSeedless Vascular Plants (Pteridophytes)
    3. Seedless Vascular Plants à Non-flowering Seedless Plants (Gymnosperms)
    4. Non-flowering Seedless Plants à Flowering Plants (Angiosperms)

*Each part (a-d) must include an in-text citation and a matching entry in your literature cited section for any reference material used in generating your written answer.

** Your answer to Question 1 (parts a – d combined) must be at least 150 words.


  1. Few, if any, liverworts, mosses or ferns are found growing in dry biomes. Why do you think this happens? Think about the biology of these plants and apply ecological ideas from lecture. (10 points possible each part, 20 points possible total)
    1. List three DIFFERENT reasons why they would not be found growing in hot, dry environments.
    2. What are some strategies used to survive by plants that are found in dry environments such as deserts to survive the harsh environment? Fully develop your thoughts and explain your answers.

*Each part (a-d) must include an in-text citation and a matching entry in your literature cited section for any reference material used in generating your written answer.

**Your answer to Question 2 (parts a and b combined) must be at least 100 words.


  1. Some algae and most other eukaryotes (i.e., plants and animals) have both a haploid and diploid stage during their reproduction. In some organisms the diploid stage is the dominant form that is responsible for the majority of growth and resource acquisition, whereas in others the haploid stage is dominant. (10 points possible each part, 20 points possible total)
    1. In your own words, briefly describe this idea of alteration of generations using the following terms as a part of your answer: haploid, diploid, sporophyte, gametophyte, mitosis, meiosis.
    2. For each of the five groups listed in question 1 above, indicate which generation (i.e., sporophyte or gametophyte) each group is in for a majority of its life cycle.

*Each part (a-d) must include an in-text citation and a matching entry in your literature cited section for any reference material used in generating your written answer.

**Your answer to Question 3 (parts a and b combined) must be at least 100 words.

Plant Diversity and Evolution

  1. Reproduce and complete the following table, indicating “Yes” or “No” for each box. (10 points possible)

Table 1. A Comparison of Life History Characteristics for Three Major Plant Groups

Characteristics Bryophyta Pteridophyta Coniferophyta
Airborne spores      
Haploid gametophyte      
Egg and sperm produced by mitosis      
Flagellated sperm      
Water-dependent fertilization      
Diploid sporophyte      
Dependent sporophyte      
Independent photosynthetic gametophyte and sporophyte      
Dependent gametophyte      
Spores produced by meiosis      
Embryo protected by seed coats (seeds)      
Seed within fruit      
Vascular tissue      


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