Grass pollen surface ornamentation is diverse across the phylogeny: Evidence from northern South America and the global literature

Wei, Cai‐Xia; Jardine, Phillip E.; Mao, Li‐Mi; Mander, Luke; Li, Mao; Gosling, William D. and Hoorn, Carina (2023). Grass pollen surface ornamentation is diverse across the phylogeny: Evidence from northern South America and the global literature. Journal of Systematics and Evolution (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jse.13021

Abstract

The grasses are one of the most diverse plant families on Earth. However, their classification and evolutionary history are obscured by their pollen stenopalynous (similar) morphology. A combination of high-resolution imaging of pollen surface ornamentation and computational analysis has previously been proposed as a promising tool to classify grass taxonomic boundaries. In this study, we test this hypothesis by studying Poaceae pollen across the phylogeny from plants collected in northern South America and also from published literature across the globe. We assessed if morphotypes that we establish using descriptive terminology are supported by computational analysis, if they vary along six (a)biotic variables and vary across the phylogeny. Based on this analysis, we constructed a reference framework for pollen surface ornamentation morphotypes. Our results showed that there is a wide variation of grass pollen surface ornamentation. We identified nine new and confirmed six known morphotypes, establishing a data set for 223 species (243 individual plant specimens) that represent 11 subfamilies. Computational analysis showed that our morphotypes are well-supported by two quantitative features of pollen sculptural elements (size and density). The specific data set and mapping of the phylogeny confirmed that pollen morphological sculpture is unrelated to (a)biotic variables and is diverse across the phylogeny.

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