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Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Fall semester 2021

Mycorrhizal symbiosis in ferns and lycophytes: the evolution of an ancestral relationship

Thais Guillen


Collecting Struthiopteris spicant  in a Swiss forest © Thais Guillen

The colonization of land by vascular plants was one of the most important evolutionary steps leading to today’s global biodiversity. However, many details about the strategies adopted by these lineages to succeed and diversify in the new environmental conditions remain poorly understood. Ferns and lycophytes contain taxa that already occurred over 400 million years ago and others that expanded recently along with the rise of angiosperms to ecological dominance. New paleontological and molecular clues indicate that the association with fungi was one of the main factors ensuring their success. Thais Guillen Otero aims to elucidate the dynamic and evolution of mycorrhizal associations in ferns and lycophytes. At the Institute of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, she studies the phylogenetic relationship among these ancient plant lineages and their fungal allies, and sheds some light over the ecological characteristics of facultative mycorrhizal ferns.

Contact: thais.guillenotero(at)