Wayt Thomas and collaborators
We propose to use the genera Rhynchospora (ca. 350 spp.) and Pleurostachys (ca. 22 spp.) (tribe Rhynchosporeae; Cyperaceae) as a model system to understand patterns of diversity and diversification in the flora of tropical and subtropical American savannas and grasslands. This project aims to (1) produce a DNA-based, dated phylogenetic hypothesis, (2) address hypotheses relating morphological (e.g., achene characters), physiological (C3 vs. C4 photosynthesis), and ecological (e.g., wind vs. insect pollination) evolution to diversification rates and shifts among American savanna/grassland areas, (3) inventory under-collected regions for species discovery and DNA, (4) construct a monophyletic classification for the group, (5) produce vouchered DNA barcodes, keys, and an achene atlas for identification, and (7) train students in systematic and genomic methods and the taxonomy of the Cyperaceae.
Inflorescence of Rhynchospora speciosa, with white bracts that attract pollinators.