Developmental evolution of pollen... from a performance perspective
Ecologists and evolutionary biologists have studied the functional biology of pollen since the discovery in the mid-1800s that pollen grains encompass tiny plants (male gametophytes) that develop, grow and produce sperm cells. Yet, “pollen” was once famously referred to as “the forgotten generation.” In flowering plants, the vegetative cell of the male gametophyte functions as a free-living, single-celled organism that both produces and transports two sperm that ultimately participate in double fertilization. Over the past twenty years, I have taken a comparative developmental approach to understanding male gametophyte functional trait evolution. I explore the significance of the origin of novel morphologies, changes in developmental sequences and growth patterns, whole genome duplications, and others, on vegetative cell performance traits, such as pollen longevity, germination speed and pollen tube growth rates.