Scientists: Plant Species Engage In Unique ‘Rubbing’ Mechanism To Self-Fertilize

The Erysimum kotschyanum.Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The unique process of “anther rubbing” is a new finding within the field of botany.

Researchers at the University of Granada have discovered a unique reproductive mechanism in the form of “anther rubbing”—a process that allows certain plant species to self-pollinate. Their findings, published in the journal The American Naturalist, are a novel discovery of a previously unknown phenomenon within the study of plants.

Plants that engage in anther rubbing perform coordinated movements for hours in the anthers (the part where pollen is produced) and the stigma (the flower's female reproductive system). “Most plants have developed mechanisms to prevent self‑fertilization and the detrimental effects of inbreeding,” said main author and professor Mohamed Abdelaziz Mohamed. "However, some plants have specialized in selfing (also called ‘autogamy’), that is to say, fertilizing themselves without the need of crossing with another plant."

Since plants that use selfing mechanisms are derived from ones that cross-fertilize, scientists theorize that autogamy should be more common in nature, but such frequency has yet to be found.

“Plant movement is generally not obvious and tends to go unnoticed. Few cases present repeated and coordinated movements,” authors Francisco Perfectti and Mohammed Bakkali said. The new discovery presents a new way to understand plant reproduction and evolution.

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