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Which came first, bi- or tricellular pollen? New research updates a classic debate
Date:5/2/2014

plants, and is particularly interested in the evolution of development of ancient flowering plants. As part of the Centennial Celebration of the American Journal of Botany, Williams and co-authors (University of Tennessee and Creighton University) decided to re-examine the core questions that Brewbaker tested using modern, updated phylogenies and many more species than Brewbaker had available to him 50 years ago (http://www.amjbot.org/content/101/4/559.full.pdf+html).

"I think many of us who did their graduate work during the '60s through the early '90s saw our first flowering plant phylogenetic tree when we opened the October 1967 issue of American Journal of Botany to Jim Brewbaker's two-page-wide tree comprising 265 families," comments Williams (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2440530?seq=4). "That he had only constructed the phylogeny to answer a question about the evolution of pollen development was even more impressive."

"Our Centennial Review paper moved from being a straightforward review to a research paper," explains Williams, "because new methods for studying evolutionary rates of binary traits had just come out, and I thought: Why not redo Brewbaker's analysis with modern methods? Coincidentally, we had been collecting data on pollen cell number for the last seven years, so we had a great dataset in hand. To his credit, Brewbaker had already anticipated all the important questions, so you could say that our paper just added clarity to the nearly 50-year-old answers he suggested."

Indeed, Williams and co-authors expanded the Brewbaker dataset by including 2,511 species for which they modeled trait evolution (tri- vs bicellular pollen) using a modern (2013) seed plant phylogeny and two different sets of analyses.

Much to their surprise, the results from th
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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