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Mihai Costea

Diversity and evolution of pollen and ovule production in Cuscuta (dodders, Convolvulaceae) in relation to floral morphology. Pl. Syst. Evol. 298:369–389


M. A.R. Wright, M. Ianni, M. Costea

published: 2012 | Research publication | Cuscuta

Cuscuta (dodder, Convolvulaceae) is a genus of about 200 species of obligate stem parasites with subcosmopolitan distribution. The diversity of pollen and ovule production was surveyed in 128 species and 10 varieties. Taxa were assigned to Cruden’s mating system categories based on their pollen-ovule ratios. Variation and correlations among floral characters were analyzed using regression and ANOVA, while the mating system categories were subjected to a linear discriminant and canonical variates analysis to assess their cohesiveness. Our data strongly suggest that most Cuscuta species possess a wide range of mixed-mating systems. Whereas four ovules develop in each flower, pollen production varies over three orders of magnitude. Several Cuscuta taxa are highly outcrossing, but no species could be identified that are exclusively selfing. The transition from the one-style flowers of subg. Monogynella to the two-style flowers of subgenera Cuscuta and Grammica, and from simultaneous to sequential maturation of the two stigmas in the latter subgenus, has decreased the role of herkogamy as a facilitator of outcrossing. These evolutionary changes are associated with an increase of species diversity in subgenus Cuscuta, and especially in subgenus Grammica. Morphological features were not individually found to have a strong correlation to the mating system, but in general, larger corollas and stigmas were associated with greater pollen-ovule ratios. Cuscuta presents some puzzling results when considered in light of the sex allocation theory, as only some infrageneric lineages demonstrate the predicted pollen size-number tradeoff, while Cuscuta gracillima complex (in subgenus Grammica) displays an unexpected negative relationship between pollen size and style length. The relationship between host range and mating system is discussed, prompting further research into the co-evolution of pollination systems and life history traits between parasites and their host species.

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