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

Rothfels, Carl J., Fay-Wei Li, Erin M. Sigel, Layne Huiet, Anders Larsson, Dylan O. Burge, Markus Ruhsam, et al. “The evolutionary history of ferns inferred from 25 low-copy nuclear genes..” American Journal of Botany 102, no. 7 (July 16, 2015): 1089–1107. https://doi.org/10.3732/ajb.1500089. Full Text Open Access Copy

Rothfels, Carl J., Anne K. Johnson, Peter H. Hovenkamp, David L. Swofford, Harry C. Roskam, Christopher R. Fraser-Jenkins, Michael D. Windham, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “Natural hybridization between genera that diverged from each other approximately 60 million years ago..” The American Naturalist 185, no. 3 (March 2015): 433–42. https://doi.org/10.1086/679662. Full Text Open Access Copy

Schuettpelz, E., K. M. Pryer, and M. D. Windham. “A Unified Approach to Taxonomic Delimitation in the Fern Genus Pentagramma (Pteridaceae).” Systematic Botany 40, no. 3 (January 1, 2015): 629–44. https://doi.org/10.1600/036364415X689366. Full Text Open Access Copy

Li, Fay-Wei, Michael Melkonian, Carl J. Rothfels, Juan Carlos Villarreal, Dennis W. Stevenson, Sean W. Graham, Gane Ka-Shu Wong, Kathleen M. Pryer, and Sarah Mathews. “Phytochrome diversity in green plants and the origin of canonical plant phytochromes..” Nature Communications 6 (January 2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms8852. Full Text Open Access Copy

Huiet, Layne, Martin Lenz, Julie K. Nelson, Kathleen M. Pryer, and Alan R. Smith. “Adiantumshastense, a new species of maidenhair fern from California..” Phytokeys, no. 53 (January 2015): 73–81. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.53.5151. Full Text Open Access Copy

Li, Fay-Wei, Carl J. Rothfels, Michael Melkonian, Juan C. Villarreal, Dennis W. Stevenson, Sean W. Graham, Gane K-S Wong, Sarah Mathews, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “The origin and evolution of phototropins..” Frontiers in Plant Science 6 (January 2015). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2015.00637. Full Text Open Access Copy

Rothfels, C. J., A. K. Johnson, M. D. Windham, and K. M. Pryer. “Low-copy nuclear data confirm rampant allopolyploidy in the cystopteridaceae (Polypodiales).” Taxon 63, no. 5 (October 1, 2014): 1026–36. https://doi.org/10.12705/635.32. Full Text

Sigel, Erin M., Michael D. Windham, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “Evidence for reciprocal origins in Polypodium hesperium (Polypodiaceae): a fern model system for investigating how multiple origins shape allopolyploid genomes..” American Journal of Botany 101, no. 9 (September 17, 2014): 1476–85. https://doi.org/10.3732/ajb.1400190. Full Text

Li, Fay-Wei, Juan Carlos Villarreal, Steven Kelly, Carl J. Rothfels, Michael Melkonian, Eftychios Frangedakis, Markus Ruhsam, et al. “Horizontal transfer of an adaptive chimeric photoreceptor from bryophytes to ferns..” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, no. 18 (May 2014): 6672–77. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319929111. Full Text