Multiple origins of a unique pollen feature: stellate pore ornamentation in Amaranthaceae

Müller KF, Borsch T

Research article (journal)


Stellate pore ornamentation is an unusual feature of angiosperm pollen, so far it is known in only ten genera of Amaranthaceae. The pollen grains of these plants have apertures with large hook-shaped ektexinous bodies that are stellately arranged. Previous studies interpreted this character complex as a synapomorphy in consideration of its strong specialization. By reconstructing the evolution of stellate pore ornamentation based on phylogenetic trees of Amaranthaceae obtained by parsimony, likelihood, and Bayesian analysis of chloroplast {trnK/matK} {DNA} sequences, clear evidence is provided for several independent origins and reversals to less specialized aperture types. In addition to the gomphrenoid genus Pseudoplantago, stellate pore ornamentation evolved several times among achyranthoid genera, which have an African distribution. The most derived apertures, with 5 - 6 large protruding hooks, appear independently in Centemopsis on the one hand, and in Psilotrichum sericeum on the other. In an effort to break down the complex character syndrome of stellate pore ornamentation, we delimited a set of six pollen morphological characters that could be independently traced on the phylogeny. It appears that stellate pore ornamentation was independently derived from apertures with equally spread ektexinous bodies that became hook-shaped, reduced in number, and symmetrically arranged. Likewise the symmetrically arranged, rectangular ektexinous bodies in Marcelliopsis represent an independent specialization. In view of this pattern of morphological changes, functional significance in the context of specialized insect pollination syndromes and positive selection for stellate pore ornamentation is hypothesized. Stellate pore ornamentation provides an example of a specialized pollen character complex with adaptive significance, and underlines the need for a dense taxon sampling for analyses of character evolution.

Details zur Publikation

Pages: 16
Release year: 2005
Language in which the publication is writtenEnglish