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

Li, Fay-Wei, Li-Yaung Kuo, Carl J. Rothfels, Atsushi Ebihara, Wen-Liang Chiou, Michael D. Windham, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “rbcL and matK earn two thumbs up as the core DNA barcode for ferns..” Plos One 6, no. 10 (January 2011). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026597. Full Text

Pryer, Kathleen M., Eric Schuettpelz, Layne Huiet, Amanda L. Grusz, Carl J. Rothfels, Tony Avent, David Schwartz, and Michael D. Windham. “DNA barcoding exposes a case of mistaken identity in the fern horticultural trade..” Molecular Ecology Resources 10, no. 6 (November 2010): 979–85. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-0998.2010.02858.x. Full Text

Korall, Petra, Eric Schuettpelz, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “Abrupt deceleration of molecular evolution linked to the origin of arborescence in ferns..” Evolution; International Journal of Organic Evolution 64, no. 9 (September 2010): 2786–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01000.x. Full Text

Beck, J. B., M. D. Windham, G. Yatskievych, and K. M. Pryer. “A diploids-first approach to species delimitation and interpreting polyploid evolution in the fern genus astrolepis (pteridaceae).” Systematic Botany 35, no. 2 (April 1, 2010): 223–34. https://doi.org/10.1600/036364410791638388. Full Text

Grusz, Amanda L., Michael D. Windham, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “Deciphering the origins of apomictic polyploids in the Cheilanthes yavapensis complex (Pteridaceae)..” American Journal of Botany 96, no. 9 (September 2009): 1636–45. https://doi.org/10.3732/ajb.0900019. Full Text

Schneider, H., A. R. Smith, and K. M. Pryer. “Is morphology really at odds with molecules in estimating fern phylogeny?.” Systematic Botany 34, no. 3 (July 1, 2009): 455–75. https://doi.org/10.1600/036364409789271209. Full Text

Schuettpelz, Eric, and Kathleen M. Pryer. “Evidence for a Cenozoic radiation of ferns in an angiosperm-dominated canopy..” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, no. 27 (July 2009): 11200–205. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0811136106. Full Text

Pryer, Kathleen M., and David J. Hearn. “Evolution of leaf form in marsileaceous ferns: evidence for heterochrony..” Evolution; International Journal of Organic Evolution 63, no. 2 (February 2009): 498–513. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2008.00562.x. Full Text

Hennequin, S., E. Schuettpelz, K. M. Pryer, A. Ebihara, and J. Y. Dubuisson. “Divergence times and the evolution of epiphytism in filmy ferns (Hymenophyllaceae) revisited.” International Journal of Plant Sciences 169, no. 9 (November 1, 2008): 1278–87. https://doi.org/10.1086/591983. Full Text

Schuettpelz, E., A. L. Grusz, M. D. Windham, and K. M. Pryer. “The utility of nuclear gapCp in resolving polyploid fern origins.” Systematic Botany 33, no. 4 (October 1, 2008): 621–29. https://doi.org/10.1600/036364408786500127. Full Text