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Welwitschia mirabilis and Neoteny

P. Martens
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 64, No. 7 (Aug., 1977), pp. 916-920
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2442386
Page Count: 5
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Welwitschia mirabilis and Neoteny
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Abstract

The adult Welwitschia is generally considered to be "a persistent seedling" and a classical example of neoteny. In the author's opinion, and after twenty years study of the plant, the neotenic interpretation appears inadequate. The question is to inquire if authentic juvenile characters persist in the adult stage; when closely considered, the answer is, they do not. Welwitschia is not a neotenic, but a "handicapped" plant. In a proper sense, it has "lost its head" at an early stage. Hundreds, or even a thousand years later, it still produces new roots, new buds, new branches, and new bracteal leaves, i.e., vegetative productions. Without in yoking any intervention of neotenic agents, the history of the plant may be reduced to seven events, each one with its ineluctable morphogenetic consequence. Starting with these views, it is possible to imagine several experimental approaches, designed to throw some light on the phyletic problem

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