January 2005 to present, research project mainly based at the TU Dresden

The order Piperales was described by the Belgian botanist Barthélemy Dumortier (1829) and now includes five families: Aristolochiaceae, Hydnoraceae, Lactoridaceae, Piperaceae and Saururaceae. This order is one of the most species-rich clades among Basal Angiosperms, comprising about 4300 species, with three genera that include more than 500 species so-called “big genera”: Piper (ca. 2000 species), Peperomia (ca. 1600-1700 species), and Aristolochia s. l. (ca. 600 species) . Nearly all types of growth and life forms are represented in this group, such as geophytes, herbs, succulents, lianas, shrubs, trees, parasites and epiphytes. Members of Piperales also exhibit a diverse spectrum of specializations in floral morphology and pollination. On the one hand, Aristolochiaceae attract insects with their highly specialised flowers, on the other hand Piperaceae and Saururaceae possess perianthless reduced flowers that are pollinated by flies and bees. Therefore, Piperales are an important lineage for understanding early angiosperm diversification.

Our two phylogenetic studies (without and with the enigmatic genus Verhuellia) were the starting point for several evolutionary studies, in which we shed light on some of the key functional and architectural traits that underlie the evolutionary transitions within the order Piperales, discussing these within the context of basal angiosperm diversification. Growth form evolution within the Piperales is studied by combining recent field observations of representative species of the main clades along with the key changes in anatomical traits, biomechanics and plant architecture.

Other studies include a new record of a critically endangered Aristolochia species in Mexico, study of the biology of living basal angiosperm lineages in relation to Early Cretaceous angiosperm ecophysiology, and several molecular phylogenies calibrated with fossils to answer specific evolutionary questions about the early angiosperms.
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Relevant publications:
Wagner ST, Isnard S, Rowe NP, Samain MS, Neinhuis C, Wanke S. (2012) Escaping the lianoid habit: evolution of shrub-like growth forms in Aristolochia subgenus Isotrema (Aristolochiaceae). American Journal of Botany 99: 1609-1629.
Isnard I, Prosperi J, Wanke S, Wagner ST, Samain MS, Trueba S, Frenzke L, Neinhuis C, Rowe NP. (2012) Growth form evolution in Piperales and its relevance for understanding the angiosperm diversification: An integrative approach combining plant architecture, anatomy and biomechanics. International Journal of Plant Sciences: 173: 610-639.
Rivera Hernández JE, Samain MS. (2011) Where has Aristolochia tricaudata (Aristolochiaceae) gone? New record of a critically endangered species in Oaxaca, Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 82: 281-286.
Feild T., Chatelet DS, Upchurch GR, Brodribb TJ, Kunsiri C, Grubbs KC, Samain MS, Wanke S. (2011) Fossil evidence for low capacities to exchange CO2 and water for Early Cretaceous Angiosperm leaves. Paleobiology 37: 195-213.
Wanke S, Vanderschaeve L, Mathieu G, Neinhuis C, Goetghebeur P, Samain MS. (2007) From forgotten taxon to a missing link? The position of the genus Verhuellia (Piperaceae) revealed by molecules. Annals of Botany 99: 1231-1238.
Wanke S, Jaramillo MA, Borsch T, Samain MS, Quandt D, Neinhuis C. (2007) Evolution of the Piperales - matK and trnK intron sequence data reveal lineage specific resolution contrast. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42: 477-497.

Dr. Marie-Stéphanie Samain

Laboratory technician:
Pieter Asselman

Dr. Stefan Wanke - TU Dresden, Germany

Dr. Nick Rowe - CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), UMR AMAP, Montpellier, France
Dr. Sandrine Isnard - IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), UMR AMAP, New Caledonia

German Science Foundation project grants (to German cooperation partner, DFG n° NE681/5-1, NE681/5-2 & NE681/11-1)

TU Dresden Biology Department, Plant Phylogenetics and Phylogenomics Group, Germany

CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), UMR AMAP, Montpellier, France

Friends of the Ghent University Botanical Garden (De Vrienden van de Plantentuin)

Ghent University
Department of Biology
Research Group Spermatophytes
Ghent University Botanical Garden