Green Algae Tree of Life Project (GrAToL)

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Green Algae Tree of Life project (GrAToL) involves the collaboration of five institutions to understand the evolutionary relationships of the major groups of green algae, a diverse group of more than 14,000 photosynthetic species worldwide.

The goal of this five-year project is to generate a robust phylogeny for the green algae that can be used to examine important evolutionary questions and formulate a modern classification for this diverse group of organisms. This project includes six investigators who together provide broad expertise on the systematics and genomics of major groups of green algae and molecular phylogenetic methods. We are working to resolve large areas of uncertainty in the existing phylogeny of all major groups of green algae, clarify their relationship to land plants, and compile an extensive genomic data set that will be used to address questions of gene and genome evolution.

Already, we have clarified relationships within certain orders of green algae, and presently are describing new genera and establishing new families in the order Sphaeropleales. In the next two years we expect to complete a study of chlorophycean algae and then to resolve the main branches of the phylum Chlorophyta. Because of significant leaps in the technology used for DNA research we are collecting data from many more species than initially proposed, which should enhance our ability to resolve some of the most difficult sections of the green algal tree of life.

Please visit our public project web site

Selected articles from this project are shown below.

  • Lewis, L.A. (2017) Hold the salt: freshwater origin of primary plastids. PNAS 114:9759-9760. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1712956114
  • Watanabe, S. & L.A. Lewis (2017) Phylogenetic interpretation of light and electron microscopic features of selected members of the phylogroup Moewusinia (Chlorophyceae), with new generic taxonomy. Phycologia 56: 329-353. DOI:10.2216/16-64.1
  • Watanabe, S., K. Fučíková, P.O. Lewis & L.A. Lewis (2016) Koshicola spirodelophila gen. et sp. nov. (Chaetopeltidales, Chlorophyceae), a novel green alga associated with the aquatic angiosperm Spirodela polyrhiza. American Journal of Botany 103: 1-11. DOI:10.3732/ajb.1500481
  • Fučíková, K., P.O. Lewis & L.A. Lewis (2016) Chloroplast phylogenomic data from the green algal order Sphaeropleales (Chlorophyceae, Chlorophyta) reveal complex patterns of sequence evolution. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 98: 176-183. DOI:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.01.022
  • Sciuto, K., L.A. Lewis, E. Verleyen, I. Moro & N. LaRocca (2015) Chodatodesmus australis sp. nov. (Scenedesmaceae, Chlorophyta) from Antarctica, with the emended description of the genus Chodatodesmus, and circumscription of Flechtneria rotunda gen. et sp. nov. Journal of Phycology 51: 1172-1188. DOI:10.1111/jpy.12355
  • Holzinger, A., K. Herburger, F. Kaplan & L.A. Lewis (2015) Desiccation tolerance in the chlorophyte green alga Ulva compress: Does cell wall architecture contribute to its ecological success? Planta 242: 477-492. DOI:10.1007/s00425-015-2292-6
  • Herburger, K., L.A. Lewis & A. Holzinger (2015) Photosynthetic efficiency, desiccation tolerance and ultrastructure in two phylogenetically distinct strains of alpine Zygnema sp. (Zygnematophyceae, Streptophyta): Role of akinete formation. [cover image] Protoplasma 252: 571-589. DOI:10.1007/s00709-014-0703-3
  • Fučíková, K., F. Leliaert, E.D. Cooper, P. Škaloud, S. D’Hondt, O. De Clerck, C.F.D. Gurgel, L.A. Lewis, P.O. Lewis, J.M. Lopez-Bautista, C.F. Delwiche & H. Verbruggen (2014) New phylogenetic hypotheses for the core Chlorophyta based on chloroplast sequence data. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2: 63. DOI:10.3389/fevo.2014.00063
  • Stancheva, R., J.D. Hall, K. Herburger, L.A. Lewis, R.M. McCourt, R.G. Sheath, & A. Holzinger (2014) Phylogenetic position of Zygogonium ericetorum Kütz. (Zygnematophyceae, Charophyta) from a high alpine habitat and ultrastructural characterization of unusual aplanospores. Journal of Phycology 50: 790-803.DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12229
  • Fučíková, K., P.O. Lewis & L.A. Lewis (2014) Widespread desert affiliation of trebouxiophycean algae (Trebouxiophyceae, Chlorophyta) including discovery of three new desert lineages. Phycological Research 62: 294-305. DOI: 10.1111/pre.12062
  • Fučíková, K., P.O. Lewis & L.A. Lewis (2014) Gene arrangement convergence, diverse intron content, and genetic code modifications in mitochondrial genomes of Sphaeropleales (Chlorophyta). Genome Biology and Evolution 6: 2170-2180. DOI: 10.1093/gbe/evu172
  • Fučíková, K., P.O. Lewis & L.A. Lewis (2014) Putting incertae sedis taxa in their place: a proposal for ten new families and three new genera in Sphaeropleales (Chlorophyceae, Chlorophyta). Journal of Phycology 50: 14-25. DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12118
  • Graham, L., L.A. Lewis, W. Taylor, C. Wellman & M. Cook (2014) Early terrestrialization: transition from algal to bryophyte grade. In: D. Hanson and S. Rice (eds.) Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration, Vol. 37: Photosynthesis in Early Land Plants, pp. 9-28. Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Flechtner, V.R., N. Pietrasiak & L.A. Lewis (2013) Newly revealed diversity of eukaryotic algae from wilderness areas of Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP). Monographs of the Western North American Naturalist 6: 43–63. DOI: 10.3398/042.006.0103
  • Fučíková, K., V.R. Flechtner & L.A. Lewis (2013) Revision of the genus Bracteacoccus Tereg (Chlorophyceae, Chlorophyta) based on a phylogenetic approach. Nova Hedwigia 96: 15–59. DOI: 10.1127/0029-5035/2012/0067
  • Tippery, N.P., K. Fučíková, P.O. Lewis & L.A. Lewis (2012) Probing the monophyly of the directly opposite flagellar apparatus group in Chlorophyceae using data from five genes. Journal of Phycology 48: 1482–1493. DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12003
  • Lewis, L.A. & F.R. Trainor (2012) Survival of Protosiphon botryoides (Chlorophyceae, Chlorophyta) from a Connecticut soil dried for 43 years. Phycologia 51: 662–665. DOI: 10.2216/11-108.1
  • Letsch, M.R. & L.A. Lewis (2012) Four gene arrangements within the chloroplast genome of a closely related group of green algae (Trebouxiophyceae, Chlorophyta). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64: 524–532. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.05.027
  • Rodríguez-Salinas, E., H. Riveros-Rosas, Z. Li, K. Fučíková, J.J. Brand, L.A. Lewis & D. González-Halphen (2012) Lineage-specific fragmentation and nuclear relocation of the mitochondrial cox2 gene in chlorophycean green algae (Chlorophyta). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64: 166–176. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2012.03.014


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