Why did plants become woody? I am fascinated to understand the climatic and genetic drivers of wood formation that has occurred hundreds of times during evolutionary history.
Wood formation is a fundamental evolutionary innovation that gave rise to countless woody species. The evolutionary transition from herbaceousness towards (phylogenetically) derived woodiness is a peculiar phenomenon dating back to Darwin's original observations. However, after about 180 years, scientists still have not figured out why plants became woody and why this has happened so frequently during evolution.
Therefore, I have compiled the first global derived woodiness database with about 7000 species belonging to 700 independent lineages. Most of the derived woody species thrive in continental regions with recurrent drought cycles. This has laid the foundation for my novel hypothesis, proposing drought as a major driver of the evolutionary transitions towards woodiness across most lineages. My team has already obtained preliminary experimental support for this hypothesis in several plant groups, and we are currently looking into alternative drivers of wood formation across flowering plants.
Who do wework with
Naturalis researchers work together on this project with:
- Prof. Dr. Klaus Mummenhoff, University of Osnabruck (Germany)
- Prof. Dr. Donovan Bailey, New Mexico State University (USA)
- Dr. Ihsan Al-Shehbaz, Missouri Botanical Garden (USA)
- Dr. Sylvain Delzon, University of Bordeaux (France)
- Prof. Dr. Steven Jansen, University of Ulm (Germany)
- Prof. Dr. Kathy Steppe, University of Ghent (Belgium)
- Prof. Rampal Etienne, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (Netherlands)