Orbicules are tiny a-cellular sporopollenin structures that occur in the anthers of many angiosperms together with the pollen grains. Although their occurrence is common, little is known about their function and systematic usefulness. With regard to orbicules, Rubiaceae (Gentianales)
are the most intensively studied plant family and therefore an ideal case to present the evolution and phylogenetic signal of orbicule characters at family level. The occurrence and morphology of orbicules was investigated in 64 species of Rubiaceae using scanning electron microscopy. Five
relevant orbicule features (presence/absence, abundance, size, shape, ornamentation) were optimized onto a custom-made phylogeny of the family. By optimizing the five orbicule characters some evolutionary trends can be observed. The previously suggested trend in angiosperms towards orbicule
absence in more derived taxa is confirmed for Rubiaceae. Orbicules appear to have been independently lost at least nine times within the family, with two subsequent reversals. Small orbicules represent the plesiomorphic character state for the family. A trend from spherical towards irregular
orbicules is observed, while ornamented orbicules occur only in derived lineages. Orbicule characters are constant at generic level and in most cases at tribal level, and therefore have potential for systematics. The presence of orbicules is correlated with the occurrence of a non-amoeboid
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Document Type: Research Article
Laboratory of Plant Systematics, K.U. Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, P.O. Box 2437, 3001 Leuven, Belgium;, Email: [email protected]
Laboratory of Plant Systematics, K.U. Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, P.O. Box 2437, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
Laboratory of Plant Systematics, K.U. Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, P.O. Box 2437, 3001 Leuven, Belgium, Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Publication date: 2011-06-01
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