Department of Biology IUB

Holland Lecture: "Disentangling the tree of life: from species discovery in a biodiversity hotspot to the origin of African savannas." Muthama Muasya, University of Cape Town.

Muasya, whose career began in Kenya, researches diverse aspects of the evolution and ecology of flowering plants, including mechanisms of speciation in sedges, patterns and drivers of wetland vegetation, edaphic niches of legumes, and the origin of spines, underground forests, and other unique traits associated with African savanna plants.

Abstract: Africa—the cradle of human evolution—has much to reveal about life on earth. From the species that currently form the tips of the tree of life, to the older branches that represent extinct ancestral lineages, knowing the evolutionary history of species, past and present, is essential for sustainable utilization of our shared biodiversity resources. New species continue to be discovered, especially in the southern hemisphere, but the race to find them is impeded by large-scale changes in land use and the global impacts of climate change. For example, the Cape Flora is a biodiversity hotspot that has attracted naturalists since the 1600s, yet dozens of new species are discovered annually especially in ephemeral habitats. Why are there so many species in such a small area, and how is the Cape biota related to other regions of the world? Molecular phylogenetic studies are reconstructing this rich tapestry of life, revealing the varied ages of different lineages, long-distance dispersal among similar habitats, evolutionary diversification into newly formed habitats, and coevolution between different lineages. African savannas—grass-dominated plant communities that rely on fire and/or herbivores to limit the growth of trees and shrubs—are an evolutionary hotbed for unique biodiversity. Reconstructing the origin of African savannas is critical for understanding our own evolutionary history.

The James P. Holland Memorial Lecture Series honors the memory of one of the most beloved faculty members on the IU Bloomington campus. Professor Holland had a passion for teaching that earned him virtually every teaching award offered on campus, including the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. The Holland lecture series honors his legacy and is designed to bring awareness of and support to diversity in the life sciences.

Monday October 21, 2019 04:00 PM
Monday October 21, 2019 05:00 PM
Myers Hall 130
Kathy Wyss
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