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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Discuss the challenges to plant life on land
  • Describe the adaptations that allowed plants to colonize the land
  • Describe the timeline of plant evolution and the impact of land plants on other living things

The kingdom Plantae constitutes large and varied groups of organisms. There are more than 300,000 species of catalogued plants. Of these, more than 260,000 are seed plants. Mosses, ferns, conifers, and flowering plants are all members of the plant kingdom. Most biologists also consider green algae to be plants, although others exclude all algae from the plant kingdom. The reason for this disagreement stems from the fact that only green algae, the Charophytes , share common characteristics with land plants (such as using chlorophyll a and b plus carotene in the same proportion as plants). These characteristics are absent in other types of algae.

Evolution connection

Algae and evolutionary paths to photosynthesis

Some scientists consider all algae to be plants, while others assert that only the Charophytes belong in the kingdom Plantae. These divergent opinions are related to the different evolutionary paths to photosynthesis selected for in different types of algae. While all algae are photosynthetic—that is, they contain some form of a chloroplast—they didn’t all become photosynthetic via the same path.

The ancestors to the green algae became photosynthetic by endosymbiosing a green, photosynthetic bacterium about 1.65 billion years ago. That algal line evolved into the Charophytes, and eventually into the modern mosses, ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. Their evolutionary trajectory was relatively straight and monophyletic. In contrast, the other algae—red, brown, golden, stramenopiles, and so on—all became photosynthetic by secondary, or even tertiary, endosymbiotic events; that is, they endosymbiosed cells that had already endosymbiosed a cyanobacterium. These latecomers to photosynthesis are parallels to the Charophytes in terms of autotrophy, but they did not expand to the same extent as the Charophytes, nor did they colonize the land.

The different views on whether all algae are Plantae arise from how these evolutionary paths are viewed. Scientists who solely track evolutionary straight lines (that is, monophyly), consider only the Charophytes as plants. To biologists who cast a broad net over living things that share a common characteristic (in this case, photosynthetic eukaryotes), all algae are plants.

Go to this interactive website to get a more in-depth view of the Charophytes.

Plant adaptations to life on land

As organisms adapted to life on land, they had to contend with several challenges in the terrestrial environment. Water has been described as “the stuff of life.” The cell’s interior is a watery soup: in this medium, most small molecules dissolve and diffuse, and the majority of the chemical reactions of metabolism take place. Desiccation, or drying out, is a constant danger for an organism exposed to air. Even when parts of a plant are close to a source of water, the aerial structures are likely to dry out. Water also provides buoyancy to organisms. On land, plants need to develop structural support in a medium that does not give the same lift as water. The organism is also subject to bombardment by mutagenic radiation, because air does not filter out ultraviolet rays of sunlight. Additionally, the male gametes must reach the female gametes using new strategies, because swimming is no longer possible. Therefore, both gametes and zygotes must be protected from desiccation. The successful land plants developed strategies to deal with all of these challenges. Not all adaptations appeared at once. Some species never moved very far from the aquatic environment, whereas others went on to conquer the driest environments on Earth.

Questions & Answers

What is Staining?
Fazal Reply
what is biology
PEACE Reply
Biology is the study of life
Tijani
what is biology
Ysabella Reply
biology is a study of living things
PEACE
Biology is a diverse branch of science that deals with mostly living things
Emmanuel
yes
Swapnil
What happen when inhibit the transcription?
Swapnil
what is the effect of not doing sexual intercourse
SUZAN Reply
what is the mechanism of cellular respiration
Rita Reply
what is enzyme
garry Reply
They are organic catalysts that alter the rate of chemical reactions in the body.
Iyadi
meaning they speed up reaction
Sarni
Enzymes are forms of chemicals that are specialized in their own areas.(eg digestion of food)
Emmanuel
what is a cell
Praize Reply
Basic Functional Unit of Life
Pascal
what is biology
Mordi Reply
biology is the study of living organisms and their interactions with one another and their environments
Ysabella
which of the following event does not occur during some stages of interface?
Bangha Reply
What is microfilaments
KHalid Reply
What is multicellular organisms
Ovie Reply
these are organisms with more than two cells
Bangha
the process when a male toad fertilizer a female eggs is called what?
Ahrebe Reply
Fertilization
Gyamfi
how did unicellular organisms form plants and animals or is it that different unicellular organisms formed plants and animald
YXNG Reply
yes
James
thanks
YXNG
name the components of faeces
Damali
undigested carbohydrate, fibre
Sandra
what are unicellular organisms..?
Sackson
they have only one cell
Sandra
faeces contains many undigested food materials, after the food has been digested then it will be absorbed in the blood stream for assimilation.,......... but the remains toxic materials are stored in the rectum these toxic materials are the faeces and it contains bile salts, the polysaccharides .
James
nice.
Sandra
thanks
James
unicellular organisms are the ones with only single cell.
James
thanks for your answers guys.
Sackson
Ok
Richard
what is class bryophyta
Emefa Reply
how many stages do we have in glycolysis?
Damali
10 stages
Elisha
the presence of a membrane enclosed nuclosed is a characteristics of what
Addai Reply
eukaryotic cell
captain

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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