ENDRESS, PETER K. Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland. - Morphology and angiosperm systematics in the molecular era.
The great progress in phylogenetic understanding of angiosperms in the
past decade is primarily due to comparative work on nucleotide
sequences. Still, a combination of molecular and morphological
analyses may give better support, and structural studies on fossil
plants place the results in temporal perspective. In turn, the better
phylogenetic relationships are resolved, the more it will be possible
to study the evolution of structural and other biological traits. At
present, it seems that many of the earlier assumptions of evolutionary
change of structure in angiosperms are supported by the phylogenetic
topologies and by paleobotanical evidence, but some almost dogmatic
assumptions appear to be wrong. Whereas phylogenetic reconstruction by
molecular studies proceeds rapidly, the contributions to the
elucidation of evolution by comparative morphology and by molecular
developmental genetics are slower. The slower pace is in part due to
the greater complexity of the features studied in structural research.
But this investment is more than compensated for by the amount of
biological information it yields.
Key words: angiosperms, evolution, morphology, paleobotany, phylogeny, systematics