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

Smith, AR, Pryer, KM, Schuettpelz, E, Korall, P, Schneider, H, and Wolf, PG. "Fern classification." In Biology and Evolution of Ferns and Lycophytes, 417-467. January 1, 2008. Full Text

Schuettpelz, E, and Pryer, KM. "Fern phylogeny." In Biology and Evolution of Ferns and Lycophytes, 395-416. January 1, 2008. Full Text

Eily, AN, Pryer, KM, and Li, FW. "A first glimpse at genes important to the Azolla–Nostoc symbiosis." Symbiosis (January 1, 2019). Full Text Open Access Copy

Li, F-W, Brouwer, P, Carretero-Paulet, L, Cheng, S, de Vries, J, Delaux, P-M, Eily, A, Koppers, N, Kuo, L-Y, Li, Z, Simenc, M, Small, I, Wafula, E, Angarita, S, Barker, MS, Bräutigam, A, dePamphilis, C, Gould, S, Hosmani, PS, Huang, Y-M, Huettel, B, Kato, Y, Liu, X, Maere, S, McDowell, R, Mueller, LA, Nierop, KGJ, Rensing, SA, Robison, T, Rothfels, CJ, Sigel, EM, Song, Y, Timilsena, PR, Van de Peer, Y, Wang, H, Wilhelmsson, PKI, Wolf, PG, Xu, X, Der, JP, Schluepmann, H, Wong, GK-S, and Pryer, KM. "Fern genomes elucidate land plant evolution and cyanobacterial symbioses." Nature Plants 4, no. 7 (July 2, 2018): 460-472. Full Text

Huiet, L, Li, FW, Kao, TT, Prado, J, Smith, AR, Schuettpelz, E, and Pryer, KM. "A worldwide phylogeny of Adiantum (Pteridaceae) reveals remarkable convergent evolution in leaf blade architecture." Taxon 67, no. 3 (June 1, 2018): 488-502. Full Text

Schuettpelz, E, Rouhan, G, Pryer, KM, Rothfels, CJ, Prado, J, Sundue, MA, Windham, MD, Moran, RC, and Smith, AR. "Are there too many fern genera?." Taxon 67, no. 3 (June 1, 2018): 473-480. Full Text

Sigel, EM, Schuettpelz, E, Pryer, KM, and Der, JP. "Overlapping Patterns of Gene Expression Between Gametophyte and Sporophyte Phases in the Fern Polypodium amorphum (Polypodiales)." Frontiers in Plant Science 9 (January 2018): 1450-null. Full Text

Dijkhuizen, LW, Brouwer, P, Bolhuis, H, Reichart, G-J, Koppers, N, Huettel, B, Bolger, AM, Li, F-W, Cheng, S, Liu, X, Wong, GK-S, Pryer, K, Weber, A, Bräutigam, A, and Schluepmann, H. "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): 453-466. Full Text

Song, M, Kuo, L-Y, Huiet, L, Pryer, KM, Rothfels, CJ, and Li, F-W. "A novel chloroplast gene reported for flagellate plants." American Journal of Botany 105, no. 1 (January 2018): 117-121. Full Text

Rothfels, CJ, Pryer, KM, and Li, F-W. "Next-generation polyploid phylogenetics: rapid resolution of hybrid polyploid complexes using PacBio single-molecule sequencing." The New Phytologist 213, no. 1 (January 2017): 413-429. Full Text

Hirai, RY, Schuettpelz, E, Huiet, L, Pryer, KM, Smith, AR, and Prado, J. "Phylogeny and relationships of the neotropical Adiantum raddianum group (Pteridaceae)." Taxon 65, no. 6 (December 1, 2016): 1225-1235. Full Text

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


Windham, MD, Huiet, L, Schuettpelz, E, Grusz, AL, Rothfels, C, Beck, J, Yatskievych, G, and Pryer, KM. "Using Plastid and Nuclear DNA Sequences to Redraw Generic Boundaries and Demystif Species Complexes in Cheilanthoid Ferns." 2009.

Pryer, KM, Schneider, H, and Magallon, S. "The radiation of vascular plants." 2004.

Selected Grants

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Evolution and Function of Farina in the Desiccation-tolerant Notholaenid Ferns (Pteridaceae) awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2020

Collaborative Research: Digitization TCN: The Macroalgal Herbarium Consortium: awarded by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2018

Identifying those Pesky Mustards: The Boechera Digitization Project awarded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2017

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Early Evolution of Fungi and the Transition to a Terrestrial Lifestyle: Marine Habitats, the New awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2017

Collaborative Research: Exploring the Evolution of an Extreme Makeover in Ferns awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2012 to 2016

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Assessing the Evolutionary Significance of Recurrent Horizontal Gene Transfer of a Chimeric Phot awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2016

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Untangling the Cystopteris fragilis Complex: An Investigation of the Effects of Polploidy on Div awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2015

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Patterns of Gene Expression in Allopolyploid Taxa of Recurrent Origin: A Case Study of the Polypo awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014