An integrative phylogenetic approach to elucidate the evolution of plant diversity

Plant Evolution and Systematics

The fundamental goal of my research is to understand the evolution of plant diversity. To achieve this goal, I integrate different aspects of plant evolutionary biology into a phylogenetic framework. My research includes a range of experimental approaches, from the collection and observation of species in the field to the generation of molecular cytogenetic and DNA-based data. My main research projects include:

  1. Evolution of breeding systems, biogeography, and polyploidy in the arctic/alpine genus Primula. This project focuses on elucidating the transitions between homostyly-heterostyly and diploidy-polyploidy in response to Pleistocene climate changes;
  2. Testing the out-of-India origin of selected plant families by using molecular dating approaches. This is mainly a biogeographic project aimed at assessing the congruence between phylogenetic and geologic patterns centered around the role of the Indian plate in biotic exchanges;
  3. Elucidating the origins of Mediterranean biodiversity with molecular phylogenetic and dating methods: the biogeographic history of the Corso-Sardinian flora;
  4. Phylogenetic relationships and genetic diversity of Saxifraga florulenta, a rare species endemic to the Maritime Alps.

Recent Publications

  • First evidence of post-glacial contraction of Alpine endemics: Insights from Berardia subacaulis in the European Alps
    Guerrina, Maria; Theodoridis, Spyros; Minuto, Luigi; Conti, Elena; Casazza, Gabriele
    Journal Of Biogeography 10.1111/jbi.14282  NOV 2021
  • Different molecular changes underlie the same phenotypic transition: Origins and consequences of independent shifts to homostyly within species
    Mora-Carrera, Emiliano; Stubbs, Rebecca L.; Keller, Barbara; Leveille-Bourret, Etienne; Vos, Jurriaan M.; Szoevenyi, Peter; Conti, Elena
    Molecular Ecology 10.1111/mec.16270  NOV 2021
  • Lipid exchanges drove the evolution of mutualism during plant terrestrialization
    Rich, Melanie K.; Vigneron, Nicolas; Libourel, Cyril; Keller, Jean; Xue, Li; et al.
    Science 10.1126/science.abg0929  MAY 21 2021
  • Geo-Climatic Changes and Apomixis as Major Drivers of Diversification in the Mediterranean Sea Lavenders (Limonium Mill.)
    Koutroumpa, Konstantina; Warren, Ben H.; Theodoridis, Spyros; Coiro, Mario; Romeiras, Maria M.; et al.
    Frontiers In Plant Science, 10.3389/fpls.2020.612258, JAN 12 2021
  • Supergene evolution via stepwise duplications and neofunctionalization of a floral-organ identity gene
    Cuong Nguyen Huu; Keller, Barbara; Conti, Elena; Kappel, Christian; Lenhard, Michael
    Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America  DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006296117     SEP 15 2020
  • Asymmetries of reproductive isolation are reflected in directionalities of hybridization: integrative evidence on the complexity of species boundaries
    Keller, Barbara; Ganz, Rita; Mora-Carrera, Emiliano; Nowak, Michael D.; Theodoridis, Spyros; et al.
    New Phytologist   DOI: 10.1111/nph.16849   SEP 2020
  • Landscape context and plant population size affect morph frequencies in heterostylous Primula veris - Results of a nationwide citizen-science campaign
    Aavik, Tsipe; Carmona, Carlos P.; Trager, Sabrina; Kaldra, Marianne; Reinula, Iris; et al.
    Journal Of Ecology   DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13488  NOV 2020
  • Population Genetic Structure and Demographic History of Primula fasciculata in Southwest China
    Ren, Guangpeng; Mateo, Ruben G.; Conti, Elena; Salamin, Nicolas
    Frontiers In Plant Science  DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00986  JUL 2 2020
  • A pseudomolecule-scale genome assembly of the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha
    Diop, Seydina I.; Subotic, Oliver; Giraldo-Fonseca, Alejandro; Waller, Manuel; Kirbis, Alexander; et al.
    Plant Journal  DOI: 10.1111/tpj.14602  Published: MAR 2020
  • Intraspecific variation of self-incompatibility in the distylous plant Primula merrilliana
    Shao, JW; Wang, HF; Fang, SP; Conti, E; Chen, YJ; Zhu, HM
    AOB PLANTS, 11 (3):10.1093/aobpla/plz030 JUN 2019
  • The role of cryptic diversity and its environmental correlates in global conservation status assessments: Insights from the threatened bird's-eye primrose (Primula farinosa L.)
    Theodoridis, S; Nogues-Bravo, D; Conti, E
    DIVERSITY AND DISTRIBUTIONS, 25 (9):1457-1471; 10.1111/ddi.12953 SEP 2019
  • The evolutionary roles of hybridization and introgression: investigating species and genomic boundaries using the model plant system Primula (Primulaceae)
    Stubbs, RL; Theodoridis, S; Keller, B; Conti, E
Conti Elena

Prof. Dr. Elena Conti
University of Zurich
Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 84 24

Research topics

  • Plant breeding systems
  • Evolution of polyploidy
  • Biogeography
  • Molecular dating



  • Molecular cytogenetics (chromosome painting)
  • Molecular biological control of the heterostyly supergene
  • Comparative morphological development of homostylous and heterostylous flowers
  • Paleobotany
  • Paleoclimatic and paleogeographic reconstruction