Plant Evolution. Introduction to the Green Plants. Land plants first appeared in the Ordovician (~460 million years ago) Today, with more than 250,000 species, they are second in size only to the insects. We now know that plants, like all living organisms, had aquatic ancestors.
The early land plants, possessed two important features that allowed them to live on land:
1) a waxy cuticle to protect against desiccation (drying out) and
2) protection of gametes and embryos in a protective jacket made of cells.
Even with these adaptations, early land plants were still closely tied to water.
They needed water for reproduction and photosynthesis.
Still had no vascular system.
Bryophytes don't receive as much attention as flowering plants, ferns, or conifers because most bryophytes are small and inconspicuous.
They have no vascular tissue (no true xylem or phloem) to lend them structural support, nor do they have true leaves or showy flowers.
This does not mean that bryophytes are not important; mosses in particular, play important roles in prevention erosion along and insulating the arctic permafrost.
Plant life cycles alternate between a sporophyte phase, which produces spores, and a gametophyte stage, which produces gametes.
A zygote divides by mitosis and grows into a mature sporophyte, or spore-producing plant.
A spore divides by mitosis and grows into a mature gametophyte, or gamete-producing plant.
Sporophyte is the diploid multicellular stage of plants and algae that undergo alternation of generations, with each of its cells containing two sets of chromosomes
Gameotphyte is the haploid, multicellular stage of plants and algae that undergo alternation of generations, with each of its cells containing only a single set of chromosomes.
In bryophytes, the gametophytes are nutritionally independent of the sporophytes and the sporophytes are either completely or partially dependent on the gametophytes. Sperm are free swimming and require water to reach the egg.
Plants, developed an efficient vascular systems, consisting of xylem and phloem, solved the problem of water and food transport throughout the plant body.
Plants also started to synthesize lignin (a plant polymer), which is incorporated into the cell wall. Lignin adds rigidity to cell walls, making it possible for plants to reach great heights.
The reproductive systems of plants were also changing. The gametophyte stage remained free-living, requiring water for fertilization, but over time, the gametophyte generation underwent a progressive reduction in size - the sporophytephase became the dominant phase of the life cycle.
9. Fiddle head of new fern frond
10. Spores on the back of a fern frond
The gymnosperms formed vast forests that dominated the landscape for more than 200 million years.
The pine tree, a representative gymnosperm, is a sporophyte.
The gametophyte generation develops from spores that are produced in male and female cones. The pollen (male gametophyte) is transferred to the ovule (female gametophyte) via wind.
After fertilization, the seed begins to develop. The entire process, from cone production to seed production, can take up to three years.
11. A pine with female cones
12. A bee pollinating a flower
Today, the flowering plants are by far the most diverse and geographically widespread of all plants
The angiosperms arose during the early Cretaceous period about 130 mya. The main feature that led to their success was the evolution of flowers and fruits.
The flower is reproductive structure that bears seeds within protective chambers called ovaries.
The presence of the ovary is one of the major differences between angiosperms and the gymnosperms. The ovary develops into the fruit, which is an important structure for seed dispersal. Flowers also allow for specialized pollination by attracting and rewarding pollinators.