Crepet, William , Niklas, Karl J. .
Darwin’s Second Abominable Mystery: Why are there so many Angiosperm Species?
The rapid diversification and ecological dominance of the flowering plants beg the question “Why are there so many angiosperm species and why are they so successful?” A number of equally plausible hypotheses have been advanced in response to this question, among which the most widely accepted highlights the mutually beneficial animal-plant relationships that are nowhere better developed or widespread than among angiosperm species and their biotic vectors for pollination and dispersal.
Nevertheless, consensus acknowledges that there are many other attributes unique to or characteristic of the flowering plants. Here, we explore these attributes in their general form and draw particular attention to those that, either individually or collectively, have been empirically shown to favor high speciation rates, low extinction rates, or broad ecological tolerances. Among these are the annual growth form, homeotic gene effects, and a propensity for hybrid polyploidy and agamospermy. Our survey of the literature in the context of paleontological data suggests that no single vegetative, reproductive, or ecological feature taken in isolation can account for the “evolutionary success” of the angiosperms. Rather, we believe that the answer to Darwin's second “abominable mystery” lies in the confluence of many intrinsic and extrinsic features that collectively make the angiosperms unique among the land plants.
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1 - Cornell University, Department of Plant Biology, 412 Mann Library, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA
2 - Cornell University, Department of Plant Biology, 412 Mann Library Building, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Date: Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Time: 11:00 AM