Anther rubbing, a new movement discovered in plants, promotes prior selfing

February 9, 2019, University of Chicago
Anther rubbing, a new movement discovered in plants, promotes prior selfing
An Erysimum incanum flower opening. This species exhibits anther rubbing. (Credit: Abdelaziz et al. 2019, © The University of Chicago Press)

Most plants have developed mechanisms to prevent self-fertilization and its detrimental effects of inbreeding depression. Traits promoting selfing in plants have been approached mainly from the perspective of a loss of function, or even only considered as a by-product of non-adaptive evolutionary processes. However, the shift from cross-fertilization to selfing has been identified as one of the most frequent evolutionary transitions. Therefore, adaptive mechanisms actively promoting selfing should be usual in the plant kingdom, but, remarkably, they have not been frequently found.

In "Anther Rubbing, a New Mechanism That Actively Promotes Selfing in Plants", Abdelaziz et al. describe anther rubbing, a mechanism based in autonomous, repeated, and coordinated movements of the stamens over the stigma during flower opening that promotes self-fertilization in a Brassicaceae species.

The researchers use and micro-photography to document this novel reproductive mechanism. They also demonstrate experimentally that anther rubbing is sufficient to achieve maximal reproductive output in this plant.

This is different from the known cases of delayed self-pollination because it assures self-pollination even before the flowers will be exposed to the visit of pollinators.

This demonstrates that elaborated mechanisms, including continuous and repeated movements, can evolve in to promote self-pollination.

Since the evolution of mating systems in plants is a very active research field, this work will establish a new perspective in the study of the evolution of plant diversity and their mating system strategies.

Explore further: Shifts in mating strategies help herbicide-resistant 'superweeds' persist

More information: Mohamed Abdelaziz et al, Anther Rubbing, a New Mechanism That Actively Promotes Selfing in Plants, The American Naturalist (2018). DOI: 10.1086/700875

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