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The origin and early evolution of plants on land

Abstract

The origin and early evolution of land plants in the mid-Palaeozoic era, between about 480 and 360 million years ago, was an important event in the history of life, with far-reaching consequences for the evolution of terrestrial organisms and global environments. A recent surge of interest, catalysed by palaeobotanical discoveries and advances in the systematics of living plants, provides a revised perspective on the evolution of early land plants and suggests new directions for future research.

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Figure 1: Morphological diversity among basal living land plants and potential land-plant sister groups.
Figure 2: a, Longitudinal section of part of a silicified early fossil gametophyte (Kidstonophyton discoides from the Rhynie Chert).
Figure 3: Sporophyte diversity in Early Devonian rhyniophyte fossils.
Figure 4: Simplified phylogenetic tree showing the minimum stratigraphic ranges of selected groups based on megafossils (thick bars) and their minim.
Figure 5: Diversity of water-conducting cells (tracheids) in early land plants (median longitudinal section through cells, basal and proximal end wa.

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Acknowledgements

We thank W. G. Chaloner, D. Edwards, J. A. Raven, P. S. Herendeen, E. M. Friis, S. Bengtson and especially J. Gray for criticisms of earlier drafts of this manuscript; W. Burger, J. Cattel, A. N. Drinnan, M. Feist, L. E. Graham, H. Haas, H. Kerp, W. A. Taylor and P. Lidmark for assistance with illustrations. This work was supported in part by the Swedish Natural Science Research Council (NFR) and the National Science Foundation.

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Kenrick, P., Crane, P. The origin and early evolution of plants on land. Nature 389, 33–39 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1038/37918

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