Gymnosperms have received less attention than angiosperms in past studies, but recent work on gymnosperms, especially that of paleobotanists, has contributed significantly to a better understanding of the evolution of vascular plants and their phylogenetic relationships. In Origin and Evolution of Gymnosperms, Charles Beck has brought together a number of outstanding international experts to synthesize state-of-the-science data and present their own recent original research. The companion to his acclaimed book on angiosperms, this compilation will bring about important changes in ideas about gymnosperms.
This work, the only one of its kind available, is timely for several reasons. First, some of Rudolf Florin's time-honored interpretations of early conifer morphology have been contested recently. Second, well-preserved remains of primitive seeds and male reproductive structures and anatomically preserved axes that have allowed detailed studies of primary vascular systems have been discovered. These fossils are providing significant new information or more accurate information than was available in the past. Third, information about gymnosperms of the Angora flora has become more accessible through the recent tendency of several paleobotanists in the USSR to publish in English. Fourth, the use of new methods of phylogenetic analysis, while supporting some longstanding concepts of relationships, has also led to some new ones.
Topics and contributors have been chosen to emphasize evolutionary patterns and phylogenetic relationships rather than merely descriptions of morphology and anatomy. Each chapter is a synthesis of the most recent data and thought about a particular group or subarea, and most include ideas and analyses reflecting the recent research of the contributors. Thus, Origin and Evolution of Gymnosperms presents a summary of what is known about these subjects including significant new information and analyses that will certainly stimulate more research in a field where there is still much to be learned.
Charles B. Beck is Director of the Museum of Paleontology, and Professor of Botany at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbol; and editor of Origin and Early Evolution of Angiosperms.