Komal Handoo, Anika Hedrich, Jose Santana, Ethan Stolen, and Griffin Willman
Authors: Komal Handoo*, Anika Hedrich*, Jose Santana*, Ethan Stolen*, Griffin Willman*, Douglas Soltis, Pamela Soltis, Johanna Jantzen
Faculty Mentor: Johanna Jantzen
College: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Plant phylogenies are useful in several key applications, including analysis of geographical distributions, biodiversity, and evolutionary history. In particular, phylogenetic trees have the potential to show many of the ways different species and traits associated with them are related. There are still many gaps in the tree of life, including many plant species that have yet to be sequenced. We created unique trees of Florida plants within certain clades to show how species within these groups are related. In an effort to resolve phylogenies for Florida plants, genetic information for these species was found by performing PCR on extracted DNA samples and obtaining sequences from GenBank for comparison. We created optimal phylogenies of five plant clades using RAxML software and plotted observed traits, including ploidy, geographical distribution, petal morphology, and medicinal properties, on these trees. Each clade was used to answer a specific question. For these clades, we either reconstructed ancestral states of morphological traits, estimated the number of origins of chemical compounds, evaluated the geographic distribution, or calculated the phylodiversity within Florida. We demonstrate the utility of phylogenies to answer a wide range of questions about the evolutionary history of the flora of Florida.
Click the video below to view the student's poster pitch.