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

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 (August 25, 2016): 2452-2458. 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

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

Rothfels, CJ, Li, F-W, Sigel, EM, Huiet, L, Larsson, A, Burge, DO, Ruhsam, M, Deyholos, M, Soltis, DE, Stewart, CN, Shaw, SW, Pokorny, L, Chen, T, dePamphilis, C, DeGironimo, L, Chen, L, Wei, X, Sun, X, Korall, P, Stevenson, DW, Graham, SW, Wong, GK-S, and Pryer, KM. "The evolutionary history of ferns inferred from 25 low-copy nuclear genes." American Journal of Botany 102, no. 7 (July 16, 2015): 1089-1107. Full Text Open Access Copy

Rothfels, CJ, Johnson, AK, Hovenkamp, PH, Swofford, DL, Roskam, HC, Fraser-Jenkins, CR, Windham, MD, and Pryer, KM. "Natural hybridization between genera that diverged from each other approximately 60 million years ago." The American Naturalist 185, no. 3 (March 2015): 433-442. Full Text Open Access Copy

Li, F-W, Melkonian, M, Rothfels, CJ, Villarreal, JC, Stevenson, DW, Graham, SW, Wong, GK-S, Pryer, KM, and Mathews, S. "Phytochrome diversity in green plants and the origin of canonical plant phytochromes." Nature communications 6 (January 2015): 7852-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Huiet, L, Lenz, M, Nelson, JK, Pryer, KM, and Smith, AR. "Adiantumshastense, a new species of maidenhair fern from California." PhytoKeys, no. 53 (January 2015): 73-81. 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