'Animal Kingdom' and 'Plant Kingdom' Categories No Longer Relevant; All Land Plants Arose From Fresh Water Not Oceans and All Share Common Ancestor
ST. LOUIS, MO, August 4, 1999 -- A five-year effort to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships among all of Earth's green plants has resulted in the most complete 'tree of life' of any group of living things on the planet, scientists announced today. The team has revealed that the group traditionally thought of as 'plants' is really four separate lineages or 'kingdoms,' with one group -- fungi -- being more related to animals than to plants. The team has overturned the traditional belief that the so-called 'land-plant invasion' was led by seawater plants. Instead, the research team has found that primitive freshwater plants provided the ancestral stock from which all green plants now on land are descended and that this ancestor spawned every green plant now alive on earth.
The team of 200 scientists from 12 countries are all part of the 'Green Plant Phylogeny Research Coordination Group,' funded in the United States by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The team's results were released for the first time at the International Botanical Congress where more than 4,000 scientists from 100 countries are meeting to discuss the latest results of research on plants for human survival and improved quality of life. The team sponsored eight major symposia at the Congress to release its findings to the scientists attending. The research team's discoveries hold profound ethical, intellectual, ecological, and economic implications for science, medicine, industry, and society.
"Better understanding this 'tree of life' will allow scientists to better
predict the biological properties of plants," said Brent D. Mishler, a
co-principal investigator for the team and Professor of Integrative Biology at
the University of California, Berkel
Contact: Ellen Wilson, Dennis Kelly, or Eileen Kugler
XVI International Botanical Congress