Kathleen M. Pryer

Professor in the Department of Biology

358 Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 660-7380
My research focuses on understanding the evolutionary relationships of ancient land plants, especially ferns and horsetails, by integrating evidence from morphology, molecules (DNA sequence data from multiple genes), and the fossil record. I use an explicit phylogenetic framework to examine the morphological evolution of various sporophytic and gametophytic characters within vascular plants, and to gain insight into the evolution of various life history traits and the body plans that typify vascular plants. A phylogenetic perspective also informs my molecular evolutionary studies that attempt to elucidate why we observe remarkable rate heterogeneity in chloroplast genes in land plant phylogeny.


  • Ph.D., Duke University 1995

  • M.S., University of Guelph (Canada) 1981

  • B.S., McGill University (Canada) 1976

Smith, AR, Pryer, KM, Schuettpelz, E, Korall, P, Schneider, H, and Wolf, PG. "Fern classification." In Biology and Evolution of Ferns and Lycophytes, 417-467. January 1, 2008. Full Text

Schuettpelz, E, and Pryer, KM. "Fern phylogeny." In Biology and Evolution of Ferns and Lycophytes, 395-416. January 1, 2008. Full Text

Rothfels, CJ, Pryer, KM, and Li, F-W. "Next-generation polyploid phylogenetics: rapid resolution of hybrid polyploid complexes using PacBio single-molecule sequencing." The New phytologist 213, no. 1 (January 2017): 413-429. Full Text

Hirai, R, Schuettpelz, E, Huiet, L, Pryer, K, Smith, A, and Prado, J. "Phylogeny and relationships of the neotropical Adiantum raddianum group (Pteridaceae)." Taxon 65, no. 6 (December 1, 2016): 1225-1235. Full Text

Haufler, CH, Pryer, KM, Schuettpelz, E, Sessa, EB, Farrar, DR, Moran, R, Schneller, JJ, Watkins, JE, and Windham, MD. "Sex and the Single Gametophyte: Revising the Homosporous Vascular Plant Life Cycle in Light of Contemporary Research." BioScience 66, no. 11 (November 1, 2016): 928-937. Full Text Open Access Copy

Schuettpelz, E, Chen, C-W, Kessler, M, Pinson, JB, Johnson, G, Davila, A, Cochran, AT, Huiet, L, and Pryer, KM. "A revised generic classification of vittarioid ferns (Pteridaceae) based on molecular, micromorphological, and geographic data." Taxon 65, no. 4 (August 30, 2016): 708-722. Full Text

Pryer, KM, Huiet, L, Li, F-W, Rothfels, CJ, and Schuettpelz, E. "Maidenhair Ferns, Adiantum, are Indeed Monophyletic and Sister to Shoestring Ferns, Vittarioids (Pteridaceae)." Systematic Botany 41, no. 1 (March 1, 2016): 17-23. Full Text

Li, F-W, Kuo, L-Y, Pryer, KM, and Rothfels, CJ. "Genes Translocated into the Plastid Inverted Repeat Show Decelerated Substitution Rates and Elevated GC Content." Genome biology and evolution 8, no. 8 (January 2016): 2452-2458. Full Text

Grusz, AL, and Pryer, KM. "Development of microsatellite markers for the apomictic triploid fern Myriopteris lindheimeri (Pteridaceae)." Applications in plant sciences 3, no. 11 (November 10, 2015). Full Text

Kao, T-T, Pryer, KM, Turner, MD, White, RA, and Korall, P. "Origins of the Endemic Scaly Tree Ferns on the Galápagos and Cocos Islands." International Journal of Plant Sciences 176, no. 9 (November 2015): 869-879. Full Text

Schuettpelz, E, Pryer, KM, and Windham, MD. "A Unified Approach to Taxonomic Delimitation in the Fern Genus Pentagramma (Pteridaceae)." Systematic Botany 40, no. 3 (October 1, 2015): 629-644. Full Text Open Access Copy

Wolf, PG, Sessa, EB, Marchant, DB, Li, F-W, Rothfels, CJ, Sigel, EM, Gitzendanner, MA, Visger, CJ, Banks, JA, Soltis, DE, Soltis, PS, Pryer, KM, and Der, JP. "An Exploration into Fern Genome Space." Genome biology and evolution 7, no. 9 (September 2015): 2533-2544. Full Text Open Access Copy


Windham, MD, Huiet, L, Schuettpelz, E, Grusz, AL, Rothfels, C, Beck, J, Yatskievych, G, and Pryer, KM. "Using Plastid and Nuclear DNA Sequences to Redraw Generic Boundaries and Demystif Species Complexes in Cheilanthoid Ferns." 2009.

Pryer, KM, Schneider, H, and Magallon, S. "The radiation of vascular plants." 2004.

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Evolution and Function of Farina in the Desiccation-tolerant Notholaenid Ferns (Pteridaceae) awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2019

Identifying those Pesky Mustards: The Boechera Digitization Project awarded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2017

Collaborative Research: Digitization TCN: The Macroalgal Herbarium Consortium: awarded by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2017

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Early Evolution of Fungi and the Transition to a Terrestrial Lifestyle: Marine Habitats, the New awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2017

Collaborative Research: Exploring the Evolution of an Extreme Makeover in Ferns awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2012 to 2016

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Assessing the Evolutionary Significance of Recurrent Horizontal Gene Transfer of a Chimeric Phot awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2016

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Untangling the Cystopteris fragilis Complex: An Investigation of the Effects of Polploidy on Div awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2015

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Patterns of Gene Expression in Allopolyploid Taxa of Recurrent Origin: A Case Study of the Polypo awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Subsexual Processes and the Origin of Genetic Variation in Asexual Ferns awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014

Collaborative Research: The Roles of Polyploidy and Apomixis in Shaping the Diversity and Distribution of Cheilanthoid F awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2011