Ecology and evolution of grasses

Overview of global grassland ecosystems

An introduction to temperate and tropical grass-dominated biomes and the threats that they currently face.

Photograph of African tropical savanna, LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary, Kenya. The photo shows grassland with groups of shrubs covering a landscape with slightly varying topography. The thatched, conical roof of a hut can be seen among shrubs in the foreground.

Temperate grassland ecosystems

An overview of the world's temperate grassland ecosystems and their common species.

Photograph of Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Illinois, U.S.A. The photo shows field field of mixed grasses and broadleaved plants, with trees on the horizon.

Tropical grassland ecosystems

An overview of the world's tropical grassland ecosystems and their common species.

Photograph showing savanna biome in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. The photo shows large baobab trees with thick trunks in the foreground and acacias in the background. The trees are widely spaced on a flat landscape with yellow grass.

Types of evidence used to study ancient grasses

Introduction to the types of evidence used to study grasses in the paleontological (fossil) and archaeological records, including macroremains, pollen, phytoliths, starch grains, mammal teeth, and isotopes.

Scanning electron micrograph (picture taken with a scanning electron microscope) of elephant grass (Cenchrus purpureus) phytoliths. The image shows a piece of epidermis with long cells and stomata.

Grass evolution and the fossil record

An overview of the fossil record of grasses and the development of grasslands from the Cretaceous to the recent.

2-panel figure of photos shows a spikelet of the Eocene grass Eograminis balticus preserved in amber in two views. The view of the right has arrowheads showing insect damage.

Grasses and the evolution of grazing mammals

A summary of the relationship between grasses and the evolution of grazing mammals, with an emphasis on the evolution of horses.

Photograph of the mounted skeleton of the ancient horse Equus occidentalis. The skeleton of this horse looks similar to the skeleton of a modern horse.

Grasses and the evolution of hominins

Summary of the early evolution of hominins, including the genera ArdipithecusAustralopithecusParanthropus, and Homo.

2-panel image showing photographs of a replica skull of Paranthropus aethiopicus from Kenya. Left image: Skull shown from the front. The skull is broad with a tall sagittal crest. Right: Same skull shown from an oblique angle.