Pollen size evolution: correlation between pollen volume and pistil length in Asteraceae
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Based on the assumptions that pollen tube length is predetermined by provisions in the pollen and that it is a function of pistil length, I hypothesise that species with longer pistils will have larger pollen grains than species with shorter pistils, and that pistil length and pollen size will be positively correlated in a linear manner. To test this hypothesis, the relationship between pollen grain volume and pistil length was compared in 43 Asteraceae species from Argentina. A positive linear correlation was found between pollen volume and pistil length. This correlation remained significant even after potential effects of phylogenetic relatedness were removed. The maintenance of this correlation suggests that in Asteraceae the association between pistil length and pollen volume may reflect a functional rather than a phyletic relationship. In addition, the pistil length: pollen volume ratio (PPR) was analysed in relation to the phylogenetic position of the species. High values of PPR would imply a reduction of the male gametophyte in relation to the minimal volume that a pollen grain must have to grow and fertilise an ovule. Thus, the general pattern of pollen volume reduction in relation to pistil length previously found among many angiosperm families will be also present within a family, i.e., PPR values of derived Asteraceae would be higher than those of basal species. Results indicated that reduction of pollen volume in derived Asteraceae was three times greater than the concomitant shortening of pistil length. Consequently, PPR increased with the phylogenetic position of the taxa. This work supports the correlation between pistil and pollen characters previously found for other plant families and confirms the influence of post-pollination processes on pollen size evolution.
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