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Article Released Wed-21st-June-2006 17:26 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Orchid has sexual intercourse with itself, Ancient lampreys are ‘design classic’

The orchid Holcoglossum amesianum, which tends to flower in windless drought conditions, defies gravity to twist the male part of its flower into the necessary shape to fertilize the female one; The fossilized remains of two tiny freshwater lampreys in Inner Mongolia, China suggests that lampreys have changed little over the last 100 million years.

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VOL.441 NO.7096 DATED 22 JUNE 2006

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Pollination: Orchid has sexual intercourse with itself
Ancient lampreys are ‘design classic’

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[1] Pollination: Orchid has sexual intercourse with itself (pp 945-946)

Many plants can fertilize themselves, but biologists in China have discovered one that takes things a step further. The orchid Holcoglossum amesianum, which tends to flower in windless drought conditions, defies gravity to twist the male part of its flower into the necessary shape to fertilize the female one.

It does so without the help of sticky fluids or other methods typically used by self-pollinating plants to ensure that the pollen reaches the egg. This makes it a new method of pollination, LaiQiang Huang and colleagues report in a Brief Communication in this week's Nature.

The team studied more than 1,900 flowers of this species, which grows on tree trunks in China's Yunnan province and flowers during the dry, windless months of February to April. The flowers produce no scent or nectar, and the researchers did not see a single instance of pollination by an insect or by wind. Instead, the pollen-bearing anther uncovers itself and rotates into a suitable position to insert into the stigma cavity, where fertilization takes place. Such is the exclusivity of this sexual relationship that flowers do not even transfer pollen to other flowers on the same plant.

CONTACT

LaiQiang Huang (Tsinghua University, University Town, China)
Tel: +86 755 2603 6052; E-mail: huanglq@sz.tsinghua.edu.cn

[2] And finally… Ancient lampreys are ‘design classic’ (pp 972-974)

The fossilized remains of two tiny freshwater lampreys have been found in Inner Mongolia, China. The newly described specimens, members of the jawless vertebrates, lived around 125 million years ago, and offer a welcome glimpse into the lampreys’ elusive evolutionary history. The finding suggests that lampreys have changed little over the last 100 million years.

Mee-mann Chang and colleagues report in this week’s Nature the discovery of the lamprey fossils, each around 8 centimetres in length. The eel-shaped creatures have long snouts and well-developed oral suckers: features that make them similar to modern-day sea lampreys.

The lamprey fossil record is meagre because the creatures lack mineralized tissues such as bone or calcified cartilage. So the new finds also help bridge a gap in lamprey history between modern-day lampreys and the 300-million-year-old specimens found in North America.

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Mee-mann Chang (Institute of Vertebrate Paleontologym and Paleoanthropology, Beijing, China)
Tel: +86 10 8836 9181; E-mail: zhangmiman@ivpp.ac.cn

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