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Journal Article

Abiotic Pollination: An Evolutionary Escape for Animal-Pollinated Angiosperms [and Discussion]

Paul Alan Cox and P. J. Grubb
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 333, No. 1267, The Evolutionary Interaction of Animals and Plants (Aug. 29, 1991), pp. 217-224
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/55606
Page Count: 8
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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.
Abiotic Pollination: An Evolutionary Escape for Animal-Pollinated Angiosperms [and Discussion]
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Abstract

Early botanists considered abiotic pollination to be primitive in angiosperms. But we now deduce from studies of palaeoecology and of extant `primitive' angiosperms that animal pollination was concomitant with the rise of the angiosperms. Recent studies of wind and water pollination in angiosperms also show these systems to be highly sophisticated. If entomophily contributed to the rise of the early angiosperms, why should many of their descendants have later evolved abiotic pollination systems? Although entomophily was initially advantageous to the early angiosperms, abiotic pollination systems may be superior in areas of low species diversity, newly colonized habitats, and places with extremely short growing seasons or other adverse climatic conditions. Abiotically pollinated plants are not constrained by the range of animal pollinators, and as a result are spectacularly successful in long-distance dispersal. Abiotic pollination also offers an escape from deleterious sexual selection and from dependency on pollinators that are climatically limited in their distribution in space or time and vulnerable to extinction. Because evolution of abiotic pollination frequently leads to dicliny or dichogamy, it is largely irreversible. This evolutionary irreversibility coupled with lowered rates of extinction and speciation give wind- or water-pollinated taxa unique phylogenetic profiles. As a large quantity of pollen is wasted by anemophilous plants, it is surprising that so many vigorous species of this kind abounding with individuals should still exist in any part of the world; for if they had been rendered entomophilous, their pollen would have been transported by the aid of the senses and appetites of insects with incomparably greater safety than by the wind... It seems at first sight a still more surprising fact that plants, after having been once rendered entomophilous, should ever have again become anemophilous. (Darwin 1876, p. 407)

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