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

  • 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
  • An expanded molecular phylogeny of Plumbaginaceae, with emphasis on Limonium (sea lavenders): Taxonomic implications and biogeographic considerations
    Koutroumpa, K; Theodoridis, S; Warren, B; Jimenez, A; Celep, F; Dogan, M; Romeiras, MM; Santos-Guerra, A; Fernandez-Palacios, JM; Caujape-Castells, J; Moura, M; de Sequeira, MM; Conti, E
    ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 8 (24):12397-12424; 10.1002/ece3.4553 DEC 2018
  • 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
  • Species divergence and maintenance of species cohesion of three closely related Primula species in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
    Ren, GP; Mateo, RG; Guisan, A; Conti, E; Salamin, N
    JOURNAL OF BIOGEOGRAPHY, 45 (11):2495-2507; 10.1111/jbi.13415 NOV 2018
  • Evaluating alternative explanations for an association of extinction risk and evolutionary uniqueness in multiple insular lineages
    Warren, BH; Hagen, O; Gerber, F; Thebaud, C; Paradis, E; Conti, E
    EVOLUTION, 72 (10):2005-2024; 10.1111/evo.13582 OCT 2018
  • A General Model for Estimating Macroevolutionary Landscapes
    Boucher, FC; Demery, V; Conti, E; Harmon, LJ; Uyeda, J
    SYSTEMATIC BIOLOGY, 67 (2):304-319; MAR 2018
  • Mixed mating in homostylous species: genetic and experimental evidence from an alpine plant with variable herkogamy, Primula halleri
    de Vos, Jurriaan M; Keller, Barbara; Zhang, Li-Rui; Nowak, Michael D; Conti, Elena
    INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PLANT SCIENCES, 179 (2): 87-99, 10.1086/695527  FEB 2018
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