Pollination could be a chaotic disaster. With hundreds of pollen grains growing long tubes to ovules to deliver their sperm to female gametes, how can a flower ensure that exactly two fertile sperm reach every ovule? In a new study, Brown University biologists report the discovery of how plants optimize the distribution of pollen for successful reproduction.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Next Mother’s Day, say it with an evolved model of logistical efficiency — a flower. A new discovery about how nature’s icons of romance manage the distribution of sperm among female gametes with industrial precision helps explain why the delicate beauties have reproduced prolifically enough to dominate the earth.
In pollination, hundreds of sperm-carrying pollen grains stick to the stigma suspended in the middle of a flower and quickly grow a tube down a long shaft called a style toward clusters of ovules, which hold two female sex cells. This could be a chaotic frenzy, but for the plant to succeed, exactly two fertile sperm should reach the two cells in each ovule — no more, no less. No ovule should be left out, either because too many tubes have gone elsewhere, or because the delivered sperm don’t work. (more…)