Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 305, Issue 2, pp 103–114 | Cite as

Beyond taxonomy: anther skirt is a diagnostic character that provides specialized noctuid pollination in Marsdenia megalantha (Asclepiadoideae–Apocynaceae)

  • Arthur Domingos-MeloEmail author
  • Tarcila L. Nadia
  • Ana P. Wiemer
  • Andrea A. Cocucci
  • Isabel C. Machado
Original Article


Taxonomic diagnostic floral structures can be very informative about details of the floral mechanism, promoting baselines for inferences about pollination system. In a number of species in the milkweed tribe Marsdenieae, the already complex basic asclepiad flower structure is further elaborated by the evolution of one morphological novelty: the anther skirt. Since the functional significance of this trait is poorly understood, we investigate its role in the pollination mechanism on Marsdenia megalantha. We tested the phenotypic integration of anther skirt; we described its functional anatomy; we identified and recorded the function of its nectaries; we described and tested in laboratory its contribution to the pollination mechanism; and we studied the pollination effectiveness of this system. The characteristics of an anther skirt are essential in the noctuid pollination of M. megalantha. This is due to its particular morphological and anatomical features related to its ability both to secrete at night and to contain nectar independently from the stigmatic chamber. The skirt also functions coordinately with the corona as a funnel that directs the noctuid legs to gynostegium. Its effectiveness in producing pollination was confirmed by field observations and manipulative experiments. We suggest that nectar offers at night and mechanical adjustment may be applicable to other representatives of the tribe as a feature that determines noctuid pollination, assigning a functional value for the anther skirt beyond the taxonomy.


Anther skirt Asclepiadoideae Gynostegium Lepidoptera pollination Marsdenieae Substitutive nectaries 



The authors thanks to PELD-Catimbau (Programa de Pesquisa Ecológica de Longa Duração), CNPq 459485/2014-8 (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) and FACEPE (Fundação de Amparo à Ciência e Tecnologia de Pernambuco) that supported this research; to RPPN-Almas (Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural Fazenda Almas) and Roberto Lima for the granting the place for research and field logistics; to Adriana Perez and Alejandra Trenchi for the technical support; to Inara R. Leal and Alícia Sérsic for reading and contributions; and to Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the donation of optical equipment. This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Brasil (CAPES)—Finance Code 001.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest regarding the publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur Domingos-Melo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tarcila L. Nadia
    • 2
  • Ana P. Wiemer
    • 3
  • Andrea A. Cocucci
    • 3
  • Isabel C. Machado
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Botânica, Laboratório de Biologia Floral e Reprodutiva Polinizar – Centro de BiociênciasUniversidade Federal de Pernambuco Recife BrazilRecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Núcleo de Biologia - Centro Acadêmico de VitóriaUniversidade Federal de PernambucoVitória de Santo AntãoBrazil
  3. 3.Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología VegetalUniversidad Nacional de Córdoba, CONICET, FCEFyNCórdobaArgentina

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