Plants that reproduce asexually prone to earlier extinction

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new study claimed that plants that can pollinate themselves are vulnerable to extinction.

The research believes that short-term perks of being able reproduce alone comes with a long-term drawback.

“Flowering plants are incredibly creative when it comes to sex. Plants just can’t walk over to potential mates like we do. Many species rely on wind or pollinators coming to them. About half of all flowering plants have another option, said Igic - they can fertilize themselves,” said co-author Boris Igic, a biologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Co-author Emma Goldberg said, “You don’t need a partner to reproduce.”

“And because you’re both the mother and the father of your own seeds, as well as the father of other plants’ seeds, you also pass on more copies of your genes,” she added.

To find out the long-term consequences, the researchers compared speciation and extinction rates for nightshade species that mate exclusively with other plants, versus species that can pollinate themselves.

“Species that can pollinate themselves have much higher extinction rates,” said Igic.

One reason why self-compatible lineages are more likely to die off, the researchers said, may be a lack of genetic diversity.

Another co-author, Stephen Smith said, “It’s like playing the stock market. If you put all your eggs in one basket you might win big in the short term. But if you don’t maintain a diverse portfolio, in the long run you’re less able to endure the market’s ups and downs.” (ANI)

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