Kathleen M. Pryer

Professor 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

Sigel, Erin M., Eric Schuettpelz, Kathleen M. Pryer, and Joshua P. Der. “Overlapping Patterns of Gene Expression Between Gametophyte and Sporophyte Phases in the Fern Polypodium amorphum (Polypodiales)..” Frontiers in Plant Science 9 (January 2018). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2018.01450. Full Text

Rothfels, Carl J., Kathleen M. Pryer, and Fay-Wei Li. “Next-generation polyploid phylogenetics: rapid resolution of hybrid polyploid complexes using PacBio single-molecule sequencing..” The New Phytologist 213, no. 1 (January 2017): 413–29. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14111. Full Text

Hirai, R. Y., E. Schuettpelz, L. Huiet, K. M. Pryer, A. R. Smith, and J. Prado. “Phylogeny and relationships of the neotropical Adiantum raddianum group (Pteridaceae).” Taxon 65, no. 6 (December 1, 2016): 1225–35. https://doi.org/10.12705/656.1. Full Text

Li, Fay-Wei, Li-Yaung Kuo, Kathleen M. Pryer, and Carl J. Rothfels. “Genes Translocated into the Plastid Inverted Repeat Show Decelerated Substitution Rates and Elevated GC Content..” Genome Biology and Evolution 8, no. 8 (August 25, 2016): 2452–58. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evw167. Full Text

Schuettpelz, E., C. W. Chen, M. Kessler, J. B. Pinson, G. Johnson, A. Davila, A. T. Cochran, L. Huiet, and K. M. Pryer. “A revised generic classification of vittarioid ferns (Pteridaceae) based on molecular, micromorphological, and geographic data.” Taxon 65, no. 4 (August 1, 2016): 708–22. https://doi.org/10.12705/654.2. Full Text

Pryer, K. M., L. Huiet, F. W. Li, C. J. Rothfels, and E. Schuettpelz. “Maidenhair ferns, adiantum, are indeed monophyletic and sister to shoestring ferns, vittarioids (Pteridaceae).” Systematic Botany 41, no. 1 (January 1, 2016). https://doi.org/10.1600/036364416X690660. Full Text

Haufler, C. H., K. M. Pryer, E. Schuettpelz, E. B. Sessa, D. R. Farrar, R. Moran, J. J. Schneller, J. E. Watkins, and M. D. Windham. “Sex and the single gametophyte: Revising the homosporous vascular plant life cycle in light of contemporary research.” Bioscience 66, no. 11 (January 1, 2016): 928–37. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw108. Full Text Open Access Copy

Grusz, Amanda L., and Kathleen M. Pryer. “Development of microsatellite markers for the apomictic triploid fern Myriopteris lindheimeri (Pteridaceae)..” Applications in Plant Sciences 3, no. 11 (November 10, 2015). https://doi.org/10.3732/apps.1500061. Full Text

Kao, T. T., K. M. Pryer, M. D. Turner, R. A. White, and P. Korall. “Origins of the endemic scaly tree ferns on the galápagos and Cocos Islands.” International Journal of Plant Sciences 176, no. 9 (November 1, 2015): 869–79. https://doi.org/10.1086/683303. Full Text

Wolf, Paul G., Emily B. Sessa, Daniel Blaine Marchant, Fay-Wei Li, Carl J. Rothfels, Erin M. Sigel, Matthew A. Gitzendanner, et al. “An Exploration into Fern Genome Space..” Genome Biology and Evolution 7, no. 9 (September 2015): 2533–44. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evv163. Full Text Open Access Copy


Selected Grants

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

A plan to rehouse and reorganize the vascular plant herbarium and botanical library at Duke University (DUKE) awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2011

Career: Reconciling patterns of phylogenetic rate heterogenity in ferns with morphology, ecology and life history awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2004 to 2010

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Evolution and diversification of epiphytic ferns awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2004 to 2007

REU Site: Bioinformatic and Phylogenetic approaches to the study of plant and fungal biodiversity awarded by National Science Foundation (Co Investigator). 2004 to 2007

Collaborative Research: Using phylogeny to investigate the history of morphological evolution in heterosporous ferns awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2005

(93-0602) Ontogeny and Phylogeny in the Aquatic Fern Family Marsileaceae awarded by National Science Foundation (Co-Principal Investigator). 1993 to 1995