Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Paul G. Wolf!


The fern genus Pteridium comprises a number of closely related species distributed throughout the world. Collectively they are called bracken ferns and have historically been treated as a single species, Pteridium aquilinum. Bracken is notorious as a toxic weed that colonizes open fields and poisons livestock. Bracken is also easily cultured and has become one of the most intensively studied ferns. Bracken has been used as a model system for the study of the fern life cycle, fern gametophyte development, the pheromonal mechanism of sex determination, toxicology, invasion ecology, and climate change. This dissertation places bracken within a global evolutionary perspective and establishes bracken as an emerging system for evolutionary genomics in ferns. Bracken samples from around the world were examined for chloroplast DNA variation to infer historical phylogenetic and biogeographic evolutionary events. New high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatic approaches were used to determine the complete chloroplast genome sequence in bracken, to identify novel RNA editing sites in chloroplast transcripts, and to identify gene sequences that are expressed in the gametophyte stage of the fern life cycle. These data represent an important genomic resource in ferns and were examined within a functional and evolutionary perspective. Several novel approaches and analyses were developed in the course of this research. Results presented in this dissertation provide novel insights into fern biology and land plant evolution.




This work was revised and made publicly available electronically on July 19, 2011