Ohio University

Gar W. Rothwell

Gar W. Rothwell Profile Picture
Distinguished Professor Emeritus

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Ph.D., University of Alberta, 1973


  • Organismal Botany
  • Paleontology
  • Evolution and Phylogeny

Studies of fossil and living land plants are directed toward a fuller understanding of phylogeny and evolution. These are explored using data from morphological, anatomical, ultrastructural, developmental, and molecular characters. Evaluations of ontogeny, reproductive biology, and organismal interactions are emphasized in interpreting development of the modern flora within the context of evolutionary ecology.

Research projects on a wide range of organismal biology topics are available for both undergraduate and graduate students who wish to become practicing scientists. These studies often focus on fossil plants, but structure, growth and development and physiology studies of living plants also are conducted. Anyone interested in doing original research and/or conducting his or her PBIO 404 undergraduate research in organismal botany, may contact Dr. Rothwell for a list and explanation of available topics.

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Faculty Research Focus Areas: Fossil Plants, Phylogenetic Systematics, and Evolutionary Developmental Plant Biology

Current and Recent Research Projects

  • Paleo-evo/devo: employing anatomical fingerprints of changes in gene regulation to reconstruct evolution and phylogeny
  • Resolving the gymnosperm tree of life
  • Origin and evolution of modern conifer families
  • Phylogeny of major fern clades

Current and Recent Student Research Projects

  • Anatomically preserved fronds of Bennettitales
  • Polen cone structure of Paleogene Cunninghamia (Cupressaceae)
  • Cone evolution among Cretaceous basal Cupressaceae
  • Early evolution of Late Cretaceous Cornales


  • BIOL 115 (Plant Structure and Development)
  • PBIO 308/508 (Morphology of Vascular Plants)
  • PBIO 417/517 (Biological Research and Science Ethics)
  • PBIO 442/542 (Experimental Anatomy of Plant Development)
  • PBIO 460/560 (Paleobotany)
  • PBIO 691 (Scientific Ethics & Academic Integrity)
  • PBIO 3080/5080 (Structural Botany; Anatomy/Morphology)

Departmental Service

  • Curator, Ohio University Paleobotanical Herbarium (OUPH)

Professional Service

  • Past President, International Organisation of Palaeobotany
  • Associate Editor, American Journal of Botany

Selected References

Rothwell, G.W., M.A. Millay, and R.A. Stockey. 2018. Resolving the overall pattern of marattialean fern phylogeny. American Journal of Botany, in revision.

Savoretti, A., A. Bippus, R.A. Stockey, G.W. Rothwell, and A.M.F. Tomescu. 2018. Grimmiaceae in the Early Cretaceous: Tricarinella crassiphylla gen. et sp. nov. and the resolving power of anatomically-preserved bryophytes. Annals of Botany, in revision.

Rothwell, G.W. and A.M.F. Tomescu. 2018. Structural fingerprints of development at the intersection of evolutionary developmental biology and the fossil record. Evolutionary-Developmental Biology Reference Guide; Plants. Springer Verlag Books, in press.

Rothwell, G.W., M.A. Millay, and R.A. Stockey. 2018. Escapia gen. nov.: Morphological evolution, paleogeographic diversification, and the environmental distribution of marattialean ferns through time. Pp. X-X. In: Krings, M.A., C. Harper, N.R. Cuneo, and G.W. Rothwell, eds. Transformative Paleobotany. Academic Press, Burlington, MA, USA, in press.

Atkinson, B.A., R.A. Stockey, and G.W. Rothwell. 2018. Tracking the initial diversification of asterids: Anatomically preserved cornalean fruits from the early Coniacian (Late Cretaceous) of western North America. International Journal of Plant Sciences 179: . DOI: 10.1086/695339.

Spencer, A.R., R.J. Garwood, A.R. Rees, R.J. Raine, G.W. Rothwell, N.T.J. Hollingworth and J. Hilton. 2017. New insights into Mesozoic cycad evolution: an exploration of anatomically preserved Cycadaceae seeds from the Jurassic Oxford Clay biota. PeerJ, DOI 10.7717/peerj.3723

Atkinson, B.A., R.A. Stockey, and G.W. Rothwell. 2017. The early diversification of Cornales: Permineralized cornalean fruits from the Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) of western North America. International Journal of Plant Sciences 178: 556-566. DOI: 10.1086/692766.

Bippus, A.C., R.A. Stockey, G.W. Rothwell and A.M.F. Tomescu. 2017. Extending the fossil record of Polytrichaceae: Early Cretaceous Meantoinea alophosioidesgen. et sp. nov., permineralized gametophytes with gemma cups from Vancouver Island. American Journal of Botany 104: 584-597.

Tomescu, A.M.F., I. Escapa, G.W. Rothwell, A. Elgorriaga, and N.R. Cuneo. 2017. Developmental programs in the evolution of Equisetum reproductive morphology - a hierarchical modularity hypothesis. Annals of Botany, 119: 489–505, 2017; doi:10.1093/aob/mcw273ss.

Atkinson, B.A., R.A. Stockey, and G.W. Rothwell. 2017. Cretaceous origin of dogwoods: an anatomically preserved Cornus (Cornaceae) fruit from the Campanian of Vancouver Island. PeerJ: 4:e2808. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2808.

Shelton, G.W.K., R.A. Stockey, G.W. Rothwell and A.M.F. Tomescu. 2016. Krassiloviella limbelloides gen. et sp. nov.: Additional diversity in the hypnanaean moss family Tricostaceae (Valanginian, Vancouver Island, British Columbia). International Journal of plant Sciences 177: 792-808.

Hilton, J., J.B. Riding and G.W. Rothwell. 2016. Age and identity of the oldest pine fossils. Geology 44: e402-403 (DOI 10.1130/G38240Y.1).

Gernandt, D.S., G. Holman, C. Campbell, M. Parks, A. Liston, R.A. Stockey and G.W. Rothwell. 2016. Phylogenetics of extant and fossil Pinaceae using implied character weighting and model-based methods. Botany 94 :863-884.

Rothwell, G.W. and T. Ohana. 2016. Stockeystrobus gen. nov. (Cupressaceae), and the evolutionary diversification of sequoioid conifers. Botany 94: 847-861.

Stockey, R.A., G.W. Rothwell and K.R. Johnson. 2016. Evaluating relationships among floating aquatic monocots: A new species of Cobbania (Araceae) from the Upper Maastrichtian of South Dakota. International Journal of Plant Sciences 177: 706-725.

Rothwell, G.W. and R.A. Stockey. 2016. Phylogenetic diversification of Early Cretaceous seed plants: The compound seed cone of Doylea tetrahedrasperma. American Journal of Botany 103: 923 – 937.

Smith, S.L., R.A. Stockey, G.W. Rothwell and S.A. Little. 2016. A new species of Pityostrobus (Pinaceae) from the Cretaceous of California: moving towards understanding the Cretaceous radiation of Pinaceae. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 14: 69-81., http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14772019.2016.1143885

Buczkowski, E.L., R.A. Stockey, B.A. Atkinson and G.W. Rothwell. 2016. Cunninghamia beardii sp. nov. (Cupressaceae: Cunninghamioideae), anatomically preserved pollen cones from the Eocene of Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada. International Journal of Plant Sciences 177: 103-114.


National Science Foundation Grant EF-0629819