Convergent evolutionary patterns of heterostyly across angiosperms support the pollination-precision hypothesis

Violeta Simón-Porcar, Marcial Escudero, Rocío Santos-Gally, Hervé Sauquet, Jürg Schönenberger, Steven D. Johnson, Juan Arroyo

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Since the insights by Charles Darwin, heterostyly, a floral polymorphism with morphs bearing stigmas and anthers at reciprocal heights, has become a model system for the study of natural selection. Based on his archetypal heterostylous flower, including regular symmetry, few stamens and a tube, Darwin hypothesised that heterostyly evolved to promote outcrossing through efficient pollen transfer between morphs involving different areas of a pollinator’s body, thus proposing his seminal pollination-precision hypothesis. Here we update the number of heterostylous and other style-length polymorphic taxa to 247 genera belonging to 34 families, notably expanding known cases by 20%. Using phylogenetic and comparative analyses across the angiosperms, we show numerous independent origins of style-length polymorphism associated with actinomorphic, tubular flowers with a low number of sex organs, stamens fused to the corolla, and pollination by long-tongued insects. These associations provide support for the Darwinian pollination-precision hypothesis as a basis for convergent evolution of heterostyly across angiosperms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1237
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106008 Botany
  • 106012 Evolutionary research
  • 106042 Systematic botany

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