Kathleen M. Pryer

Professor of Biology

358 Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
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

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

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): 7852. 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): 637. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2015.00637. Full Text Open Access Copy