The epidermal cells of flowers come in different shapes and have different functions, but how they evolved remains largely unknown. Floral micro-texture can provide tactile cues to insects, and increases in surface roughness by means of conical (papillose) epidermal cells may facilitate flower handling by landing insect pollinators. Whether flower microstructure correlates with pollination system remains unknown. Here, we investigate the floral epidermal microstructure in 29 (congeneric) species pairs with contrasting pollination system. We test whether flowers pollinated by bees and/or flies feature more structured, rougher surfaces than flowers pollinated by non-landing moths or birds and flowers that self-pollinate. In contrast with earlier studies, we find no correlation between epidermal microstructure and pollination system. The shape, cell height and roughness of floral epidermal cells varies among species, but is not correlated with pollinators at large. Intriguingly, however, we find that the upper (adaxial) flower surface that surrounds the reproductive organs and often constitutes the floral display is markedly more structured than the lower (abaxial) surface. We thus conclude that conical epidermal cells probably play a role in plant reproduction other than providing grip or tactile cues, such as increasing hydrophobicity or enhancing the visual signal.
|Nummer van het tijdschrift||2|
|Status||Published - mrt.-2020|