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Double Fertilization in Gnetum gnemon (Gnetaceae): Its Bearing on the Evolution of Sexual Reproduction within the Gnetales and the Anthophyte Clade

Jeffrey S. Carmichael and William E. Friedman
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 83, No. 6 (Jun., 1996), pp. 767-780
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2445854
Page Count: 14
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Double Fertilization in Gnetum gnemon (Gnetaceae): Its Bearing on the Evolution of Sexual Reproduction within the Gnetales and the Anthophyte Clade
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Abstract

The fertilization process in Gnetum is critical to our understanding of the evolution of sexual reproduction within the Gnetales, a monophyletic group of nonflowering seed plants that are the closest living relatives to flowering plants. Although much is known about the fertilization process in Ephedra, which is basal within the Gnetales, little is known about sexual reproduction in the derived sister groups Gnetum and Welwitschia. Ovules of Gnetum gnemon were collected at various stages after hand pollination and processed for light, fluorescence, and electron microscopy. Approximately 5 d after pollination, pollen tubes reach sexually mature female gametophytes, which are coenocytic At that time, a binucleate sperm cell is found within each pollen tube. Within 7 d of pollination, double fertilization events occur when each of two sperm nuclei released from a pollen tube fuses with a separate, undifferentiated female nucleus within the free nuclear female gametophyte, which lacks differentiated egg cells. The products of double fertilization are two viable zygotes; endosperm is not formed. The lack of differentiated egg cells in Gnetum gnemon is unparalleled among land plants and the documentation of a regularly occurring process of double fertilization is congruent with the hypothesis that a rudimentary process of double fertilization evolved in a common ancestor of angiosperms and Gnetales.

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