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

Schuettpelz, E., G. Rouhan, K. M. Pryer, C. J. Rothfels, J. Prado, M. A. Sundue, M. D. Windham, R. C. Moran, and A. R. Smith. “Are there too many fern genera?Taxon 67, no. 3 (June 1, 2018): 473–80. https://doi.org/10.12705/673.1. Full Text

Huiet, L., F. W. Li, T. T. Kao, J. Prado, A. R. Smith, E. Schuettpelz, and K. M. Pryer. “A worldwide phylogeny of Adiantum (Pteridaceae) reveals remarkable convergent evolution in leaf blade architecture.” Taxon 67, no. 3 (June 1, 2018): 488–502. https://doi.org/10.12705/673.3. Full Text

Dijkhuizen, Laura W., Paul Brouwer, Henk Bolhuis, Gert-Jan Reichart, Nils Koppers, Bruno Huettel, Anthony M. Bolger, et al. “Is there foul play in the leaf pocket? The metagenome of floating fern Azolla reveals endophytes that do not fix N2 but may denitrify.The New Phytologist 217, no. 1 (January 2018): 453–66. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.14843. Full Text

Song, Michael, Li-Yaung Kuo, Layne Huiet, Kathleen M. Pryer, Carl J. Rothfels, and Fay-Wei Li. “A novel chloroplast gene reported for flagellate plants.American Journal of Botany 105, no. 1 (January 2018): 117–21. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.1010. Full Text

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): 1450. 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


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

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

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