Lu, Y., Jin, B., Wang, L., Wang, Y., Wang, D., Jiang, X.-X. and Chen, P. 2011. Adaptation of male reproductive structures to wind pollination in gymnosperms: Cones and pollen grains. Can. J. Plant Sci. 91: 897-906. Wind pollination (anemophily) in gymnosperms is thought to be an ancestral state. Previous studies considered wind pollination to be a largely random phenomenon, but recent evidence suggests that wind-pollinated species have evolved different complex reproductive adaptations for controlling and maximizing the success of wind pollination. However, compared with angiosperms, wind pollination in gymnosperms is poorly understood. We investigated the male reproductive structures of 13 representative gymnosperm species using a scanning electron microscope and digital camera, and analyzed how the morphological characteristics of male cones and pollen facilitate pollination. These characteristics showed a surprising variation between different gymnosperm species in improving pollination success. For example, the relationship between the position of the male cone and the surrounding vegetative structures is adjusted to optimize pollen release. The pollen grains have sacs and papilla and exhibit particular shapes after release from microsporangia, including boat-like, saccate, papilla-like and spheroid shapes, which facilitate pollen dispersal in the air. Taken together, our results suggest that the extensive diversity of male reproductive structures within gymnosperms represents an evolutionary response to long-term selection and results in solutions to the physical restraints of anemophily.
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