Analyzing the Evolution of Plants

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Analyzing the Evolution of Plants

Introduction

Plants dominate vast areas of the natural world, both in the aquatic environment and on the land. It is argued that all plants have a common origin and descend from an ancestral plant that thrived in the aquatic environment. Most species of plants share many common traits with charophytes which are a group of green algae. This relationship proves the fact that the different plant species have a common ancestry. Bennici (212) argues that among land plants, the origin of the sporophyte represents an important stage in their evolution. The first seed bearing plants evolved approximately 380 million years ago, and the first flowers appeared 180 million years later. Grasses appeared later, about 65 million years ago (Willis and McElwain 2). The diversity of the plant kingdom is interesting and while reviewing their evolution, it is important to understand how they are related and adapted to the different environment in which they exist.

Research Problem

There are numerous plants species in the natural world, and each year new species are discovered. The diversity of the plant kingdom is an interesting issue doe to many similarities of the different plants species. Historically, scientists have focused on studying the evolution of plants, with little emphasis placed on plants. Plants have evolved over a period of approximately 380 million years and are now an important part of life in the modern world. They evolved from microscopic plants to huge trees that grow up 60 meters tall. Given the important role they play in sustaining the life and the fact that they appeared long before animal life, studying their evolution patterns and relationship is important.

Research Questions

The main research question that the current study seeks to answer is “What is the evolutionary relationship between different species of plants?” In addition to the main research question, the paper will also address a number of research sub-questions which include:

  • What common origins do plants have?
  • What are the traits of their common origin?
  • What are the major factors that contributed to the evolution of plants?

Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to define the evolutionary patterns of plants and identify the factors that contributed to their evolution. Other objectives include:

  • To identify the evolutionary relationship between vascular and non-vascular plants
  • Identify the different plant evolution theories
  • Identifying how the adaptive features of plants have changed over time

Literature Review

Bennici (215) states that the subject of plant evolution, especially the origin of sporophyte in terrestrial plants, is controversial and that most texts overlook this issue. In his article, he specifies that the homologous and the antithetic theory explain the origin and evolution of plants, but they conflict regarding the origin of alternating generations among terrestrial plants. Willis and McElwain (4) define that the evolution of plants is different from that of animals given the differences that exist between them. They state that the numbers of basic needs that plants require are relatively few compared to those required by the animals. Moreover, throughout their evolution record, the basic needs of plants have remained the same. Wills and McElwain give other factors that have contributed to the evolution of plants such as inbuilt mechanism to cope with environmental stress, low levels of sensitivity to environmental changes as well as the capability of some species to live for very long periods of time.

Edmund (n.p) opines that the evolution of plants involved difficult processes that made it possible for the green algae to evolve into more complex terrestrial plants. He adds that the evolution of plants enabled them to develop adaptations, which in turn allowed them to compete with each other for resources such as water, light, and nutrients from the soil. The relatedness between green plants and green algae is enhanced by the fact that they share chlorophyll b and the cell walls since both of them are primarily composed of cellulose and store carbon in form of starch (Kadereit et al. 3304). These traits indicate that green plants and green algae are closely related. Hare (50) is of the view that changes in the environment were the main factor that contributed to tthe evolution of plants. Apart from that, he states that insects as well as herbivores have played an important role in determining the plant genotypes that are favored by natural selection.

Research Design and Methodology

Both primary and secondary data was used in the research. Content analysis was utilized to collect secondary information. It involved reviewing various literature sources in order to collect data that was used to answer the identified research questions. Moreover, it included studying the content of various relevant literatures and empirical documentations trying to find information. Content analysis is a widely used qualitative research method that largely involves drawing out and interpreting meaning from the context of both text and numerical data (Hsieh & Shannon 1277).

In this study, the use of content analysis as the main method of data collection involved reviewing literature sources such as books, journals, official reports, and websites in order to collect information on the evolution of plants. Some of the benefits associated with the use of this method include the fact that it is cost-effective since it involves collecting data from previously published research work.  In addition, content analysis provides an in-depth and extensive scope of information that one can refer to in order to address the identified research objectives (Vogt, Gardner & Haeffele 89). As a research method content analysis is an objective and systematic approach of describing and quantifying phenomenon. It allows a researcher to test theoretical issues in order to enhance understanding of data (Elo & Kyngas 107).

Conclusion

Most species of plants share many common traits with charophytes which are a group of green algae. This relationship proves the fact that the different plant species have a common ancestry. The first seed bearing plants evolved approximately 380 million years ago and the first flowers appeared 180 million years later. Grasses appeared later, about 65 million years ago. The evolution of plants has  has given them possibility to adapt to the different environment in which they thrive. Apart from the natural forces, animals and insects have also contributed to their evolution.

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