I aim to produce a comprehensive taxonomic treatment of the hair-cap mosses (order Polytrichales), based on state-of-the-art phylogenetic inference techniques. I will sample a wide range of morphological and molecular characters and incorporate novel data from sporophyte microstructure and cell wall chemistry. A major output will be a comprehensive, Internet accessible database of taxa.
The Polytrichales is one of the most phylogenetically isolated moss lineages and a significant group of land plants in its own right. A synopsis of the largest genus, Pogonatum, provides a baseline for evaluating the extent of the work required for a similar treatment of the entire order. It is estimated that ca. 87% of the 1588 published names are synonyms, and that the actual number of species is ca. 200.
The systematic treatment will follow that of earlier studies by Prof. Hyvonen, which include phylogenetic analyses using data from morphology and 7 genomic regions. I will enlarge upon these to sample all species within the order, thus initiating the most comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of any major moss group to date. In previous unpublished work I identified novel features of the polytrichalean sporophyte that challenge recent taxonomic treatments and offer insights in to structure, function and evolution.
These will be investigated as part of a detailed study using scanning electron microscopy that will contribute towards compartmentalised datasets of gametophyte and sporophyte characters, allowing controlled testing of hypotheses of comparative phylogenetic vs. Concerted homoplastic signal.
The project will considerably develop my research career by allowing me to gain expertise in a group other than that studied for my PhD (Prof. Hyvonen is the foremost world authority on the Polytrichales) and providing me with extensive training in new phylogenetic and other methods, including optimisation alignment, parallel computing, electron micrography and bioinformatics.
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