Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 299, Issue 5, pp 811–816 | Cite as

Intraspecific variability of pollen morphology as revealed by elliptic Fourier analysis

Original Article


Pollen grains have long fascinated biologists who used their remarkable interspecific diversity as a marker to infer profiles of past and present vegetations and environment. This study addresses the question of the diversity of the morphology of pollen grains at the intraspecific level: how different are pollen grains of the same species sampled in different populations? Such differences are expected, and are actually well known to palynologists, but at the same time technically challenging to quantify. We used elliptic Fourier analysis, a powerful morphometric approach for the comparison of outlines, on equatorial and polar views of 30 pollen grains sampled in two different populations for each of five tropical species, thus yielding 600 outlines. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed intraspecific variation of shape of the pollen grains in three out of the five species studied. Our goal here was to test if there were differences in the shape of pollen. This, to our knowledge, would be the first such study of this particular aspect of palynology. We also discuss some relevant evolutionary hypotheses. Further studies using outline analysis, coupled with a choice of appropriate sampling strategies, to suit varying environmental conditions, would prove of great value in testing such hypotheses.


Modern morphometrics Outline analysis Anemophilous pollen 


  1. Aguilar-García SA, Figueroa-Castro DM, Castañeda-Posadas C (2012) Pollen morphology of Pachycereus weberi (Cactaceae): an evaluation of variation in pollen size. Plant Syst Evol 298:1845–1850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barone Lumaga MR, Cozzolino S, Kocyan A (2006) Exine micromorphology of Orchidinae (Orchidoideae, Orchidaceae): phylogenetic constraints or ecological influences? Ann Bot 98:237–244PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonhomme V, Picq S, Claude J (2012a) Momocs package.
  4. Bonhomme V, Picq S, Gaucherel C, Claude J (2012b) Momocs: outline analysis using R. J Statist Softw Sub 6:38Google Scholar
  5. Bowker GE, Crenshaw HC (2007a) Electrostatic forces in wind-pollination—Part 1: measurement of the electrostatic charge on pollen. Atmos Environ 41:1587–1595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowker GE, Crenshaw HC (2007b) Electrostatic forces in wind-pollination—Part 2: simulations of pollen capture. Atmos Environ 41:1596–1603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Claude J (2008) Morphometrics with R. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Crampton JS (1995) Elliptical Fourier shape analysis of fossil bivalves: some practical considerations. Lethaia 28:179–186Google Scholar
  9. Dajoz I, Till-Bottraud I, Gouyon PH (1991) Evolution of pollen morphology. Science 253:66–68PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Erdtman G (1960) The acetolysis method, a revised description. Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift 54:561–564Google Scholar
  11. Faegri K, Iversen J (1989) Textbook of pollen analysis. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  12. Ferson S, Rohlf FJJ, Koehn RK (1985) Measuring shape variation of two-dimensional outlines. Syst Biol 34:59–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Foster DR, SP K, Pick STA (1990) Insights from Paleoecology to community ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 5:119–122PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haines AJ, Crampton JS (2000) Improvements to the method of Fourier shape analysis as applied in morphometric studies. Palaeontology 43:765–783Google Scholar
  15. Hu S, Dilcher DL, Jarzen DM, Winship Taylor D (2008) Early steps of angiosperm pollinator coevolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:240–245PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hyde HA, William DA (1944) The right word. Pollen Anal Circ 8:6Google Scholar
  17. James Rohlf F, Marcus LF (1993) A revolution in morphometrics. Trends Ecol Evol 8:129–132PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jansonius J, McGregor DC (eds) (1996) Introduction. palynology: principles and applications. American association for stratigraphic analyses, 1–10Google Scholar
  19. Kendall D (1989) A survey of the statistical theory of shape. Stat Sci 4:81–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kuhl FP, Giardina CR (1982) Elliptic Fourier features of a closed contour. Comput Graph Imag Process 18:236–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Niklas KJ (1985) The aerodynamics of wind pollination. Bot Rev 51:328–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Punt W, Hoen PP, Blackmore S, Nilsson S, Le Thomas A (2007) Glossary of pollen and spore terminology. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 143(1–2):1–81. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2006.06.008 Google Scholar
  23. R Development Core Team (2012) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation For Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  24. Small CG (1996) The statistical theory of shape. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Tellería MC, Daners G (2007) Intraspecific variation in the pollen exine sculpture of Jaborosa runcinata Lam. (Solanaceae). Grana 46:268–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent Bonhomme
    • 1
  • S. Prasad
    • 1
  • Cédric Gaucherel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EcologyFrench Institute of Pondicherry, CNRS, UMIFRE 21PondicherryIndia

Personalised recommendations