Jessica Budke, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of UT’s Herbarium, published a paper titled “Evolution of Perine Morphology in the Thelypteridaceae” in the International Journal of Plant Sciences, that looks at the dispersal of fern spores.
Researchers focused their study on Thelypteridaceae, a family of ferns that includes more than 1,000 species. Their research focused on spore ornamentation, or shapes and structural characteristics of the outside of the spores.
Researchers then used different spores from across the family to better understand relationships between the species, using a technique called ancestral character state reconstruction.
“We used a lot of molecular data to build a phylogenetic tree, and then mapped on the spore characteristics onto the tree,” Budke said. “By mapping them on the tree, we can look at the evolution of those features.”
The study used resources like the UT Herbarium, a repository of native and naturalized plants and fungi of Tennessee, for dried samples of previously collected ferns.
“We have more than 600,000 plant specimens on campus,” she said. “It saves time and money and resources because you’re not having to run around collecting everything.”
Other coauthors on the paper include University of Connecticut post-doctoral research assistant Nikisha Patel, University of Vermont graduate student Susan Fawcett, and University of Vermont research assistant professor Michael Sundue.
-By Kelly Alley