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Teaching Staff

Professor SAUNDERS, Richard

Professor SAUNDERS, Richard

Director and Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, HKU

BSc (St Andrews); MSc (Reading); PhD (CNAA)


  • 2299 0608
  • 2559 9114
  • KBSB 3S16

Teaching Areas

  • BIOL1309 (Evolutionary Diversity): Algal and plant diversity
  • BIOL3302 (Systematics and Phylogenetics)
  • BIOL3314 (Plant Structure and Evolution)

Research Interests

  • Descriptive plant systematics: species-level classifications
  • Phylogenetic reconstruction based on DNA sequence data
  • Developmental and functional plant morphology
  • Evolutionary plant reproductive biology
  • Historical biogeography of flowering plants

Current Research 

  • Key functional floral traits in the early-divergent angiosperm family Annonaceae: gynoecial diversity and the evolution of strategies that promote pollination efficiency and pollen competition
  • Population genetics and conservation biology of the endangered tree Aquilaria sinensis in Hong Kong
  • Reproductive ecology and biogeography of Artabotrys (Annonaceae): using phylogenies to test hypotheses in plant-pollinator coevolution, pollinator trapping, and spatio-temporal changes in distribution ranges and ecological niches
  • Assessing key evolutionary innovations and founder events as drivers of speciation: an integrated phylogenetic approach to the study of evolutionary diversification in the genus Meiogyne (Annonaceae)
  • Pollinator trapping in the early-divergent flowering plant family Annonaceae: evolution of a mechanism that maximizes the efficiency of pollinator use
  • Pollination ecology, seed dispersal, population genetics and conservation biology of Thismia species (Thismiaceae)
  • Perianth evolution in the Annonaceae, an early-divergent family of flowering plants: integrating floral development, comparative transcriptomics and pollination ecology

Research Team

Currently one postdoctoral fellow (Dr GUO Xing), four PhD students (Mr CHEN Junhao, Mr LIU Ming Fai, Mr KWOK Wan Hin, and Ms CHEN Yanwen), and one MPhil student (Ms Ashini DIAS).

Fellowships 

  • Linnean Society of London

Publications and News

  • Guo, X, DC Thomas, RMK Saunders (2018) Gene tree discordance and coalescent methods support ancient intergeneric hybridisation between Dasymaschalon and Friesodielsia (Annonaceae). Molec Phylogen Evol 127: 14–29.
  • Guo, X, DC Thomas, RMK Saunders (2018) Organ homologies and floral evolution in the Dasymaschalon alliance (Annonaceae): inner petal loss and its functional consequences. Front Pl Sci 9: art. 174.
  • Thomas, DC, CC Tang, RMK Saunders (2017) Historical biogeography of Goniothalamus and Annonaceae tribe Annoneae: dispersal-vicariance patterns in tropical Asia and intercontinental tropical disjunctions revisited. J Biogeogr 44: 2862–2876.
  • Lau, JYY, CC Pang, L Ramsden, RMK Saunders (2017) Stigmatic exudate in the Annonaceae: pollinator reward, pollen germination medium, or extragynoecial compitum? J Integr Plant Biol 59: 881–894.
  • Li, PS, DC Thomas, RMK Saunders (2017) Historical biogeography and ecological niche modelling of the Asimina- Disepalum clade (Annonaceae): role of ecological differentiation in Neotropical-Asian disjunctions and diversification in Asia. BMC Evol Biol 17: art. 188.
  • Guo, X, CC Tang, DC Thomas, TLP Couvreur, RMK Saunders (2017) A mega-phylogeny of the Annonaceae: taxonomic placement of five enigmatic genera andrecognition of a new tribe, Phoenicantheae. Sci Rep 7: art. 7323.
  • Lau, JYY, X Guo, CC Pang, CC Tang, DC Thomas, RMK Saunders (2017) Time-dependent trapping of pollinators driven by the alignment of floral phenology with insect circadian rhythms. Front Pl Sci 8: art. 1119.
  • Hu, A-Q, SW Gale, P Kumar, RMK Saunders, M Sun, GA Fischer (2017) Preponderance of clonality triggers loss of sex in Bulbophyllum bicolor, an obligately outcrossing epiphytic orchid. Molec Ecol 26: 3358–3372.
  • Lau, JYY, CC Pang, L Ramsden, RMK Saunders (2016) Reproductive resource partitioning in two sympatric Goniothalamus species (Annonaceae) from Borneo: floral biology, pollinator trapping and plant breeding system. Sci Rep 6: art. 35674.
  • Thomas, DC, LW Chatrou, GW Stull, DM Johnson, DJ Harris, U-S Thongpairoj, RMK Saunders (2015) The historical origins of palaeotropical intercontinental disjunctions in the pantropical plant family Annonaceae. Perspect Pl Ecol Evol Syst 17: 1–16.