Plant Evolution & Paleobotany

Website by Jamie Boyer, Ph.D.

An educational resource for botanically curious students studying Earth's history, fossils, and evolution

The Earth's history is frequently told through a narrative of animal evolution; strange creatures that remind us of mythical beasts, such as dinosaurs, mammoths, and creatures that fascinate the mind of children and adults. Rarely does popular culture describe geologic history through the most fundamental organisms on the planet: plants, algae, bacteria, and fungi

This website uses plants (and other "unseen" organisms)  as the focus for studying the evolutionary changes on Earth. We all learned that photosynthesis is the basis for most life on Earth. This was also true in the past, and therefore autotrophs and decomposers serve as great lenses with which to study geologic/evolutionary change.

In addition, these organisms can be a better model for understanding evolution. We tend not to think that plants or fungi think or desire, thus avoiding misconceptions that assume organisms want to be taller, larger, faster, etc. Since plants, algae, bacteria, and fungi aren't perceived to have desires, people are more likely to understand and accept the mechanisms of evolution as described by scientists, and without anthropomorphism...

...also, let's face it, as you start to study and understand plants/fungi, you start to realize that they are just. so. amazing!

-Jamie Boyer, Ph.D.

Above: Stigmaria, the root-like structure of a scale tree, in the Manchester Museum. Credit: Hans Steur

In order to understand evolution and the role of plants, algae, and fungi in the geologic record, this website is organized to provide paleobotanical information in several different formats

FAQ of Earth's History