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Plant Physiol. 2014 Oct;166(2):570-80. doi: 10.1104/pp.114.244517. Epub 2014 Sep 3.

The origin and early evolution of roots.

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Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom.


Geological sites of exceptional fossil preservation are becoming a focus of research on root evolution because they retain edaphic and ecological context, and the remains of plant soft tissues are preserved in some. New information is emerging on the origins of rooting systems, their interactions with fungi, and their nature and diversity in the earliest forest ecosystems. Remarkably well-preserved fossils prove that mycorrhizal symbionts were diverse in simple rhizoid-based systems. Roots evolved in a piecemeal fashion and independently in several major clades through the Devonian Period (416 to 360 million years ago), rapidly extending functionality and complexity. Evidence from extinct arborescent clades indicates that polar auxin transport was recruited independently in several to regulate wood and root development. The broader impact of root evolution on the geochemical carbon cycle is a developing area and one in which the interests of the plant physiologist intersect with those of the geochemist.

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