Mario Coiro

Mario Coiro


Tel.: +41 (0)44 634 84 37



2015-current PhD in Evolutionary Biology in Peter Linder’s group, University of Zurich.

2012 - MSc in Biological Sciences, Università di Napoli "Federico II", Naples (Italy).

2009 - BS in Agrofood Biotechnologies,  Università di Napoli "Federico II", Naples (Italy).

Research Interests

My main interest lies on the role of morphology and fossil data to understand the patterns of evolution and diversification in the seed plants. I am currently focusing on the Cycadales, a pivotal group for the understanding of evolution in the seed plants. Their extant diversity includes 341 species assigned to 10 genera. They are distributed in subtropical and tropical regions in both hemispheres with centers of diversity in Mexico and Central America, South Africa and Australia. Until recently, the cycads were considered to be a “living fossils”, which underwent very little evolutionary change since their appearance in the Mid Permian.  This contrasts with what emerges from molecular dating analyses, which infer that most of the modern species diversity of the Cycadales originated in the Late Miocene. This has been interpreted as an adaptive radiation in response to aridification or as a recovery from a mass extinction. 

An obstacle to test such hypotheses is represented by the poor understanding of the fossil record of the cycads, especially the leaf fossil record. Even if cycadalean leaves are present from the late Palaeozoic though the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic, with a reported high diversity, their taxonomy is unclear and their relationships are poorly understood. Assignation to the few fossil genera is usually based on a combination of macromorphological and epidermal characters, but the relative importance of these characters as phylogenetic trackers is not really understood.

During my project, I will collect data about leaf morphology and epidermal anatomy for all genera and most species of the extant cycadales, and reevaluate the morphology of the main cycad fossil leaves. I will make use of advanced microscopical techniques, and analyze the data in a phylogenetic and morphospace framework. This will help to resolve the relationships between extant and fossil cycads, and to understand the patterns of evolution of this group through time.


D. Feike, D. Seung, A. Graf, S. Bischof, T. Ellick, M. Coiro, S. Soyk, S. Eicke, T. Mettler-Altmann, K. J. Lu, M. Trick, S. C. Zeeman, A. M. Smith, (in press) A novel starch-granule-associated protein required for the control of starch degradation in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves. The Plant Cell

M. R. Barone Lumaga, M. Coiro, E. Truernit, B. Erdei, P. De Luca Epidermal micromorphology in Dioon: did volcanism constrain Dioon evolution?, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, in press

D. Seung, S. Soyk, M. Coiro, B. A. Maier, S. Eicke, S. C. Zeeman PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH Is Required for Localising GRANULE-BOUND STARCH SYNTHASE to Starch Granules and for Normal Amylose Synthesis in Arabidopsis, Plos Biology, 13(2)

G. Chomicki, L. P. R. Bidel, F. Ming,M. Coiro, X. Zhang, Y. Wang,Y. Baissac, C. Jay-Allemand, S. S. Renner, The velamen protects photosynthetic orchid roots against UV-B damage, and a large dated phylogeny implies multiple gains and losses of this function during the Cenozoic, New Phytologist, 205(3): 1330-1341

M. Coiro, M. R. Barone Lumaga, Aperture evolution in Nymphaeaceae: insights from an ultrastructural and micromorphological investigation, Grana, 52(3):192-201