Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants

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Botany Seminars

A joint seminar of the section Systematics, Biodiversity & Evolution of Plants, the Botanische Staatssammlung München and the Botanical Garden München-Nymphenburg

When? Wednesdays, 4:15 pm (during the semester).

Where? Presence/Stream, Online Only

Presence (If possible)/Stream: Big lecture hall in the Botanical Institue, Menzinger Str. 67, 80638 München (Participation only for vaccinated, recovered, or negative tested people)

Online Only: Zoom meeting (Click here) Meeting-ID: 931 8542 4499, Passcode: Botany

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Winter Semester 2021-2022

03.11.2021: Dr. Diego F. Morales-Briones. Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany. Presence/Stream.

Disentangling the Reticulate Evolutionary History of a Neotropical Plant Radiation (and beyond)


Hybridization is now recognized as a critical process in the evolution of plants where it is particularly prominent. While hybridization has contributed extensively to angiosperm diversity, it also represents a significant challenge for phylogenetic reconstruction due to the patterns of incongruence that a reticulate process produces within and between the nuclear and chloroplast genomes. Here, I will show my work to elucidate the reticulate evolutionary history of Lachemilla, a rapidly radiating group of plants in the neotropical high-altitude grasslands (páramos) by combining extensive natural history collections with a plurality of phylogenetic methods. I will show that hybridization and polyploidy are widespread at various depths in the phylogeny of Lachemilla. Still, Lachemilla is a small part of a more significant, complex, and remarkable evolutionary history that is Alchemilla s.l. I will further show evidence of the hybrid origin of Lachemilla, its relatives, and the entire Alchemilla s.l. itself. Finally, I will argue why Alchemilla s.l. could be an excellent group to evaluate the hybrid swarm and syngameon origin hypotheses for adaptive radiation in a phylogenetic context.

Dr. Diego F. Morales-Briones research:

Host: Prof. Dr. Gudrun Kadereit


10.11.2021: Dr. Matthew Nelsen. The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Online Only.

Tracing the evolution and ecological diversification of lichen symbioses


Here we inferred the underlying pathways by which symbiotic and phenotypic diversification occurred in one of the most iconic symbioses—lichens—while evaluating their ecological and macroevolutionary consequences. By inferring a time-scaled phylogeny of over 3300 species of lichen-forming fungi (LFF), we identified occasional instances of symbiotic instability that increased both the magnitude and diversity of lichen contributions to ecosystem processes from the Mesozoic through the Cenozoic. Symbiont switches broadly coincided with shifting environmental conditions, and the convergent evolution of phylogenetically or functionally similar associations in diverse lineages. We then inferred when LFF invaded arboreal habitats, and place them in a broader and more comparative framework by highlighting their paleoecological implications, and discussing them in the context of climate, vegetation, and the evolution of other epiphytic or arboreal lineages.

Dr. Matthew Nelsen research:

Host: Prof. Dr. Silke Werth


17.11.2021: Prof. Dr. Marc Gottschling. Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany. Presence/Stream.

Better the species you know: Exploring the diversity and distribution of unicellular dinophytes


Type material of microorganisms, particularly of older taxa, consists of specimens mounted permanently on glass or mica slides or of illustrations only. In many cases, type material is ambiguous and makes reliable species determination problematic. For a correct application of such not only but also ambiguous scientific names in the microbial domain, the Shenzhen (‘botanical’) Code (ICN) provides a tool for designation of interpretative epitypes. The taxonomic identity of dinophytes is clarified by collecting samples at corresponding type localities. After establishing living strains, species are DNA-barcoded using rRNA sequences and investigated using contemporary light and scanning electron microscopy. Strains that are morphologically consistent with corresponding protologues are used for designation of interpretative epitypes. The significant difference from the historical types is that fully documented epitypes correspond to living material enabling DNA sequencing as well as experiments in ecology. Stable taxonomy and reliable species determination are particularly important to better understand occurrence and distribution of microorganisms in metabarcoding approaches. I will discuss promises and challenges of distribution studies in the microbial domain, where the development of reliable reference databases is crucial. The studies are necessary to better understand the organismic impacts of climate change or to improve applications such as the European Water Framework Directive.

Prof. Dr. Marc Gottschling research: 

01.12.2021: PD Dr. Simon Poppinga. Plant Biomechanics Group, Botanic Garden University of Freiburg, Germany. Presence (If possible)/ Stream.

Plant movement physics and biomimetics


Although they do not have muscles, nerves and true hinges, plants can show spectacular movements. The motion principles are very diverse and have recently become a source of inspiration for the development of biomimetic compliant mechanisms, which are of great interest for various fields, e.g. soft robotics and architecture. In my talk, I will concisely summarize the physics of plant motion and procedures in biomimetic approaches. The work processes presented include basic biomechanical and functional-morphological investigations of fast and slow plant movements, the abstraction of functional principles, simulations and the transfer into novel materials systems and products. A focus is laid on systems, which are directly triggered and powered by changes of environmental conditions (i.e., humidity). With the help of such autonomous and self-sufficient actuators, reduced electrical consumption and maintenance are envisaged, which are important aspects for future technologies.

PD Dr. Simon Poppinga research:

Host: PD Dr. Andreas Fleischmann


15.12.2021: Prof. Dr. Jochen B. W. Wolf. Division of Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany.

Hybridization in Natural Populations


Speciation can be conceptualized as a process during which reproductive barriers accumulate in the genomes of diverging populations. During the early stages of this process, reproductive barriers are generally incomplete allowing for gene flow that is mediated by first generation hybrids backcrossing into the parental populations. Hybridization thus is a natural component of species divergence with varied impact. It may slow down or reverse divergence, accelerate it via adaptive introgression, induce instantaneous isolation by allopolyploidization or open novel niche space to transgressive genotypic combinations. Whole genome sequencing data of natural populations allows insight into the evolutionary processes acting upon hybridization and may eventually help identify the reproductive barriers promoting species divergence. I will here present two examples of population divergence with gene flow from our own research. First, I will share some insights from a long-standing research program on the Eurasian crow superspecies complex forming two distinct hybrid zones in Europe and Russia. Second, I will describe the consequences of hybridization in natural populations of fission yeast. Though very different at first sight, these systems share a history of hybridization which they still carry in their genomes today.

Prof. Dr. Jochen Wolf research:

Host: Prof. Dr. Gudrun Kadereit


19.01.2022. Dr. Barbara Ebert. German Federation for Biological Data e.V., Bremen, Germany.

What happens to all the data? Insights into the new National Research Data Infrastructure in Germany


Research in all scientific domains produces an exponentially growing amount of data - however, much of it is not available in a form that makes it readily available for re-analysis or recombination. Even worse, a lot of data gets lost over time, hampering reproducibility of research as well as scientific progress.
In November 2018, the German Science Minister Conference GWK agreed on a 10-year initiative to structure research data services across different scientific domains in Germany. The talk will inform about the vision and the structure of the NFDI and NFDI4Biodiversity, and how we work with use cases from different areas of biodiversity research and nature conservation to understand their data needs. Existing support services for researchers will be briefly introduced, as well as the trusted data centers which provide them. The final part of the presentation will be a Q & A session with the audience, regarding their experiences with data management.

Dr. Barbara Ebert research:

Host: Dr. Dagmar Triebel


16.02.2022. Prof. Dr. Pablo Vargas Gómez. Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, CSIC, Spain.

A paradigm shift in the study of plant colonization

Prof. Dr. Pablo Vargas Gómez research:

Host: Prof. Dr. Gudrun Kadereit


23.02.2022: Dr. Linnea Hesse. Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany.

Plants can inspire technology: Modern methods in plant biomimetics


Plants have undergone rigorous quality control throughout evolution. The results are organisms with unique form-structure-function principles that reveal intelligent solutions to various challenges that we humans can learn from and transfer to technical systems. In the field of plant biomimetics, novel technical material systems have been developed which mimic the function of biological material systems or processes. However, it is not always easy to assign a specific function to a biological design which is further complicated by their multifunctionality. For this reason, the further development of methods for the functional analysis of model organisms is a central task of bionic research. Some modern methods in plant biomimetics are finite element modelling as well as static and dynamic 3D to 4D imaging methods (µCT and MRI) which give novel insight into self-sealing mechanisms in leaves of Delosperma and a load adapted fiber-reinforced design and development of monocot stems. 

Dr. Linnea Hesse research:

Host: Prof. Dr. Gudrun Kadereit


Summer Semester 2021