Sara B. Hoot
Sara B. Hoot
Molecular Plant Systematics

M.A., Pennsylvania State Univ. 1985
Ph.D., Univ. of Michigan 1991
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Field Museum, Chicago 1991-94

Office: Lapham S399
Phone: 414-229-2654
FAX: 414-229-3926
Laboratory Homepage:

Research Interests

My research as a plant systematist is a little like a good detective novel - I reconstruct evolutionary events that occurred in the past by working with the clues left on earth today. Because evolutionary relationships are often difficult to reconstruct, I use multiple data sets such as DNA sequences, morphology, and palynology (pollen morphology). The data are analyzed using sophisticated computer programs, resulting in evolutionary trees that can be used to address such questions as how particular plant characteristics evolved or clues as to why a plant group has its current geographical distribution.

Anemone lithophilaAn ongoing research project in my laboratory is the study of evolutionary patterns in a large order of flowering plants, the Ranunculales. This group contains such well-known families as the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), barberry family (Berberidaceae) and the poppies (Papaveraceae). Many members of the Ranunculales have medicinal and horticultural uses; one family, the moonseed family (Menispermaceae) includes plants with compounds applied by South American Indians to make poison darts. We are currently working on an NSF funded project to develop extensive morphological and molecular data sets for the Ranunculales, including a fully searchable morophological database.

Another project is concerned with evolutionary patterns and phytogeography of the genus Anemone and closely related genera (family Ranunculaceae). Previous phylogenetic analyses based on restriction site variation and morphology are being supplemented with the addition of new species from around the world. These new additions will allow an assessment of a possible past Gondwanian geographical distribution for this group of plants, with concurrent implications about the timing and modes of evolution of the earliest flowering plants in general.

I and Carl Taylor of the National Science Foundation, have been collaborating on a comprehensive study of a nonflowering plant family of ancient origins, Isoëtaceae (the quillworts). We are using molecular data to reconstruct evolutionary trees for the family from a worldwide perspective, but we are also looking at relationships among numerous species of North American Isoëtes. Using molecular data, we have found numerous examples of plants of hybrid origin and have identified many new species based solely on our laboratory work (these species have not been collected yet in the wild or may even be extinct).


Selected Publications

Hoot, S. B., J. Kramer, and M. T. K. Arroyo. 2008. Phylogenetic position of the South American dioecious genus, Hamadryas, and related Ranunculeae (Ranunculaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 169: 433-443.

Hoot, S. B., W. C. Taylor, and N. S. Napier. 2006. Phylogeny and biogeography of Isoëtes based on nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequence data. Systematic Botany 31: 449-460.

Schuettpelz, E. and S. B. Hoot. 2006. Inferring the root of Isoëtes: Exploring the alternatives in the absence of an acceptable outgroup. Systematic Botany 31: 258-270.

Hoot, S. B., N. S. Napier, and W. C. Taylor. 2004. Revealing unknown or extinct lineages within Isoëtes (Isoëtaceae) using DNA sequences from hybrids. American Journal of Botany 91: 899-904.

Schuettpelz, E. and S. B. Hoot. 2004. Phylogeny and biogeography of Caltha (Ranunculaceae) based on chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequences. American Journal of Botany 91: 247 253.

Walsh, B. M. and S. B. Hoot. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships of Capsicum (Solanaceae) using DNA sequences from two noncoding regions: The chloroplast atpB-rbcL spacer region and nuclear waxy introns. International Journal of Plant Sciences 162: 1409-1418.

Hoot, S. B., S. Magallon, and P. R. Crane. 1999. Phylogeny of basal eudicots based on three molecular data sets: atpB, rbcL, and 18S nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 86: 1-32.