Plant Reproduction

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 381–390 | Cite as

Does breeding system affect pollen morphology? A case study in Zygophylloideae (Zygophyllaceae)

  • Somayeh NaghilooEmail author
  • Sedigheh Nikzat Siahkolaee
Original Article

Key message

We found a correlation between large pollens and selfing and between psilate pollen walls and cleistogamy.


Flowering plants display extraordinary diversity in pollen morphology, yet the functional significance of this variation is not well understood. Zygophylloideae is a lineage characterized by high diversity of breeding systems, ranging from obligate selfing to facultative selfing and further to facultative outcrossing. This group is particularly suitable for testing hypotheses about the influence of breeding system on pollen morphology. We studied pollen morphology in 20 species of Zygophylloideae and one species of Tribuloideae as an outgroup. A phylogeny of Zygophylloideae was created based on available DNA sequences and used to trace the evolution of pollen characters. We performed a phylogenetic analysis of correlated evolution between breeding system and several pollen characters. Three types of pollen morphology were found in the studied species. Tricolporate pollen with a small apocolpium, microreticulate ornamentation and medium size was determined as the ancestral state in Zygophylloideae. The correlation analysis indicated an association between large pollens and selfing and between psilate pollen wall and cleistogamy. We hypothesize that large size of pollen in selfing species is mainly associated with the low number of produced pollen indicating a trade-off between pollen size and number. The independence from pollen vector in cleistogamous flowers accounts for the evolution of smooth pollen walls in these species.


Cleistogamy Correlation analysis Pollen morphology Selfing Zygophylloideae 



The work was financially supported by a fellowship given by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to the first author. We thank Prof. Dirk U. Bellstedt (University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa) for assisting in sample collection and Saeed Javadi Anaghizi (Central Laboratory of the Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran) for providing SEM photographs.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution (iomE)Johannes Gutenberg-UniversityMainzGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Life Sciences and BiotechnologyShahid Beheshti UniversityTehranIran

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