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Pollen (microgametophyte) competition: an assessment of its significance in the evolution of flowering plant diversity, with particular reference to seed germination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 February 2015


Jerry M. Baskin
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0225, USA
Carol C. Baskin
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0225, USA Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0312, USA
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

A hypothesis by David L. Mulcahy published in Science in 1979 on pollen competition as an important force in the evolution of flowering plant diversity, via selection of favourable genes in the microgametophyte that are passed on to, and inherited in, the sporophyte, stimulated quite a bit of research on the topic. The primary aim of this opinion paper is to assess the evidence for the effect of microgametophyte competition on the sporophyte, with particular reference to seed germination. Pollen competition was associated with an increase in seed germination in 14 of 30 case studies (30 published papers). Seed mass was related to better germination in only two of the 14 cases in which there was a positive effect of pollen competition on germination. An evaluation of the four criteria that must be met to validate Mulcahy's hypothesis cast some doubt on the significance of pollen competition as an important selective force in the diversification of angiosperms. Insect pollination, via which many pollen grains are deposited on a stigma, may not be the answer to Darwin's ‘abominable mystery’ concerning the reason for the abrupt origin and rapid diversification of flowering plants during the Cretaceous.


Type
Research Opinion
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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Pollen (microgametophyte) competition: an assessment of its significance in the evolution of flowering plant diversity, with particular reference to seed germination
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