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The evolution of floral gigantism


Davis, C C; Endress, P K; Baum, D A (2008). The evolution of floral gigantism. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 11(1):49-57.

Abstract

Flowers exhibit tremendous variation in size (>1000-fold), ranging from less than a millimeter to nearly a meter in diameter. Numerous studies have established the importance of increased floral size in species that exhibit relatively normal-sized flowers, but few studies have examined the evolution of floral size increase in species with extremely large flowers or flower-like inflorescences (collectively termed blossoms). Our review of these record-breakers indicates that blossom gigantism has evolved multiple times, and suggests that the evolutionary forces operating in these species may differ from their ordinary-sized counterparts. Surprisingly, rather than being associated with large-bodied pollinators, gigantism appears to be most common in species with small-bodied beetle or carrion-fly pollinators. Such large blossoms may be adapted to these pollinators because they help to temporarily trap animals, better facilitate thermal regulation, and allow for the mimicry of large animal carcasses. Future phylogenetic tests of these hypotheses should be conducted to determine if the transition to such pollination systems correlates with significant changes in the mode and tempo of blossom size evolution.

Abstract

Flowers exhibit tremendous variation in size (>1000-fold), ranging from less than a millimeter to nearly a meter in diameter. Numerous studies have established the importance of increased floral size in species that exhibit relatively normal-sized flowers, but few studies have examined the evolution of floral size increase in species with extremely large flowers or flower-like inflorescences (collectively termed blossoms). Our review of these record-breakers indicates that blossom gigantism has evolved multiple times, and suggests that the evolutionary forces operating in these species may differ from their ordinary-sized counterparts. Surprisingly, rather than being associated with large-bodied pollinators, gigantism appears to be most common in species with small-bodied beetle or carrion-fly pollinators. Such large blossoms may be adapted to these pollinators because they help to temporarily trap animals, better facilitate thermal regulation, and allow for the mimicry of large animal carcasses. Future phylogenetic tests of these hypotheses should be conducted to determine if the transition to such pollination systems correlates with significant changes in the mode and tempo of blossom size evolution.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:February 2008
Deposited On:27 Jan 2009 20:15
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:54
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1369-5266
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbi.2007.11.003
PubMed ID:18207449

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