Dr Sandy Hetherington

Research Interests

Dr Alexander (Sandy) Hetherington is an evolutionary biologist whose research spans the study of both extant and extinct plant species. Sandy carried out an MSci in Geology at the University of Bristol before moving to St Catherine’s College Oxford to undertake his DPhil. His DPhil was part of the Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Programme with his primary research project undertaken in the Department of Plant Sciences under the supervision of Prof. Liam Dolan. Sandy’s thesis titled the “Evolution and morphology of lycophyte root systems” was awarded the Irene Manton Prize from the Linnean Society of London. On completing his DPhil he was awarded a junior research fellowship from Magdalen College. Sandy is now based at the University of Edinburgh.

The aim of Sandy’s current research is to uncover the origin and early diversification of plant roots – an organ whose origin made profound changes to the terrestrial landscape and was essential for plants to evolve the tree life habit. Studying the exceptionally preserved fossil plants in the 407 million year old Rhynie Chert, and comparing the characters of their rooting systems with those of living plants, Sandy aims to reconstruct the anatomy and development of the rooting system present in the first vascular plants.

Publications
  • New views on old seeds: a new description of Genomosperma sheds light on early seed evolution.

  • Multiple Metabolic Innovations and Losses Are Associated with Major Transitions in Land Plant Evolution.

  • Multiple origins of dichotomous and lateral branching during root evolution

  • Aquatic stem group myriapods close a gap between molecular divergence dates and the terrestrial fossil record.

  • Multiple metabolic innovations and losses are associated with major transitions in land plant evolution

  • Gene expression data support the hypothesis that Isoetes rootlets are true roots and not modified leaves

  • Reconstructing trait evolution in plant evo-devo studies.

  • Evolution: Diversification of Angiosperm Rooting Systems in the Early Cretaceous.

  • More