Charophyte algae and land plant origins

Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Dec;19(12):661-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2004.09.013.


The charophyte algae are six distinct groups of mostly freshwater green algae that are related to modern land plants. Charophyte algae exhibit diverse morphologies and reproductive strategies, from unicells to branching erect forms, and from swimming asexual spores to sex involving eggs and sperm, respectively. The green algae known as stoneworts (Charales) are suggested to be the extant sister group to all land plants, although the phylogeny is not conclusive. Here we review recent molecular phylogenetic work on the charophyte algae and its implications for our understanding of the origins of land plants and of characters in their aquatic ancestors that might have played a role in the explosive diversification of plants on land.