Angiosperm Phylogeny: Term project


  1. Choose a plant family that is
    1. included in APG IV, and either
    2. represented in the California flora (as referenced by The Jepson Manual, 2nd edition, or its website), or
    3. containing members of economic importance in the United States.
  2. Choose a second and third choice, in case someone has already requested your first choice.
  3. Submit your choices through the form in Blackboard, first come, first served. I will either approve your first choice, approve one of your alternates if there is a conflict, or (in rare cases) tell you to try again.
  4. Create your project, following the requirements and guidelines below.
  5. Submit your project using the link in Blackboard. The deadline is 11:59 pm on Thursday, December 8.


Your paper must contain the following sections, in order:

  1. Family name, with author citation (from IPNI)
  2. Type genus, and ordinarily the type species (if you're having trouble hacking through a nomenclatural jungle to get the type species, contact me well in advance of the due date)
  3. Alternate names for the family that include the type genus (homotypic synonyms). Most often, there aren't any.
  4. The position of the family in each of these classifications (i.e., its order, class, and division/phylum), or if it doesn't occur, an explanation of why.
    1. Bessey
    2. Cronquist or Takhtajan (specify which you use)
    3. Thorne
    4. Dahlgren
    5. APG I
    6. APG IV
  5. A discussion of changes in circumscription (the genera that are included along with the type genus). Some families have retained the same circumscription for a century or more. Others are either more inclusive or less inclusive in APG as a result of maintaining monophyly. For large families, you obviously don't need to include all the genera, but you should pick enough to show trends.
  6. Related to the previous point, what other families have been split from your family, and what have been combined with your family, in different classifications.

    The remainder of the information will come from APG IV and the references it cites (including previous APG publications and other papers in the primary literature).

  7. What is the phylogenetic outgroup to your family? It may be another family, an order, an unranked clade, or even a genus. What is the evidence (direct synapomorphy, or gene trees) that links your family to its outgroup?
  8. What are the other families in the same order as your family? There may be none, and there may still be families that are not assigned to an order. Are there any phenotypic synapomorphies for the order?
  9. What are the phenotypic synapomorphies for your family? Are there any members in which any of these synapomorphies is not apparent? Why?
  10. Following up on item 6 above, for each of the subdividions of your family (e.g., subfamilies) that were considered to be separate families in earlier classifications, explain whether they are monophyletic, paraphyletic, or polyphyletic, and (especially for the monophyletic ones) why APG chose to combine them.
  11. Do you think the current circumscription of the family is adequate, or is it likely to change with more data?
  12. Finish off your paper with a bibliography.


  1. In order for Turnitin to properly process your submission, it must be in either Microsoft Word or PDF format. If you are not able to create either of these with the software available to you, please contact me early in the quarter.
  2. It is my policy to base the grade of a written assignment on the proportion of the total answer occupied by the correct answer. Thus, if you have a correct answer that is expressed in 100 words, and you supply an additional 900 words of unrelated material, your grade will be 10%. It's common for students in lower division courses to write down everything they think they know about a subject, in hopes that some of it will stick. My policy is designed to penalize that. I don't expect to see any of that in a senior-level class. Please don't let me down. And in general, the quicker I can find the information I'm looking for, the happier I'll be, and the more likely to see the strengths in your paper, rather than the weaknesses.
  3. Please follow the sequence of items given above under Requirements. It is a requirement, and I'll take off a few points if you do, but the bigger danger is that I'll miss important information because it's out of place.
  4. Do not include any images that you have not referenced in the text and that don't illustrate something better than words could. There are plenty of places where images will enhance understanding, but if you use them as decoration, I penalize that. Likewise, use of decorative fonts, page backgrounds, and non-standard page sizes will be penalized. This is no place for graphic design (beyond basic legibility), and I say that as someone who has done plenty of graphic design.
  5. Provide citations for everything. Pick a citation and bibliography style (preferably from a journal in your area of biology) and stick with it. Whenever I doubt something you have written, I look it up. If you don't provide a citation, and I'm not able to quickly confirm what you wrote with a web search, I will assume it is wrong. (Conversely, if I know something is correct, I probably won't even notice your reference.)
  6. For every reference that is not one of the PDFs distributed in class, provide a web link, or if that's not available, a doi, or, lacking even that, have a PDF or a xerox of the article available in case I want to look at it.