An integrative phylogenetic approach to elucidate the evolution of plant diversity

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

  • 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 Article (Details)
  • Forecasting range shifts of a cold-adapted species under climate change: Are genomic and ecological diversity within species crucial for future resilience?
    Theodoridis1 S, Patsiou1 TS, Randin C, Conti E.
    Ecography, DOI: 10.1111/ecog.03346  2017.
  • How Do Cold-Adapted Plants Respond to Climatic Cycles? Interglacial Expansion Explains Current Distribution and Genomic Diversity in Primula farinosa L. 
    Theodoridis, Spyros; Randin, Christophe; Szovenyi, Peter; Boucher, FC; Patsiou, TS; Conti, E
    SYSTEMATIC BIOLOGY, 66 (5): 715-736, 10.1093/sysbio/syw114  SEP 2017
  • The contribution of cold air pooling to the distribution of a rare and endemic plant of the Alps
    Patsiou, TS; Conti, E; Theodoridis, S; Randin, CF
    Plant Ecology & Diversity, 10:1, 29-42, DOI: 10.1080/17550874.2017.1302997  2017
  • Selfing in Haploid Plants and Efficacy of Selection: Codon Usage Bias in the Model Moss Physcomitrella patens 
    Szovenyi, Peter; Ullrich, Kristian K.; Rensing, Stefan A.; et al. 
    GENOME BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 9 (6): 1528-1546  JUN 2017
  • Visions of the past and dreams of the future in the Orient: the Irano-Turanian region from classical botany to evolutionary studies 
    Manafzadeh, Sara; Staedler, Yannick M.; Conti, Elena 
    BIOLOGICAL REVIEWS, 92 (3): 1365-1388 AUG 2017 Article (Details)
  • Fossils matter: improved estimates of divergence times in Pinus reveal older diversification
    Saladin, Bianca; Leslie, Andrew B.; Wueest, Rafael O.; et al. 
    EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 17 (95) APR 2017 Article (Details)
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