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VIRTUAL GSL Public Lecture: In search of the roots of roots: 400 million years of plant root evolution

17 February 2021
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Event type:
Virtual event, Lecture
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Geological Society Events
Virtual event
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This lecture will take place via Zoom.

Speaker: Sandy Hetherington from the University of Edinburgh

“Plant blindness” is the term used to describe the phenomena where plants often go unnoticed or underappreciated by humans. Plant blindness is observed in many contexts including in the study of palaeontology where plants are often overlooked simply as food for animals rather than as the fundamental underpinnings of all terrestrial ecosystems. A major goal of my research is to promote and communicate the importance of land plant evolution and the vast changes plants have made to the Earth System. In my research I utilise a diversity of techniques, including classic comparative methods, new imaging techniques and molecular approaches such as comparative genomics, to shine a spotlight on the evolution of the hidden half of plants – the rooting systems. Rooting systems are the interface between plants and the terrestrial surface and their evolution has therefore played a key role in driving plant evolution and changes to the Earth system. In this lecture I will deliver a journey about root evolution including new insights from the world famous 407 million-year-old Rhynie chert, the roots that underpinned the iconic Carboniferous coal swamp forests and finally the hidden history of roots written in the genomes of living species.


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