The ancestral flower of angiosperms and its early diversification

Hervé Sauquet, Maria Von Balthazar, Susana Magallón, James A. Doyle, Peter K. Endress, Emily J. Bailes, Erica Barroso de Morais, Kester Bull-Hereñu, Laetitia Carrive, Marion Chartier, Guillaume Chomicki, Mario Coiro, Raphaël Cornette, Juliana Hanna Leite El Ottra, Cyril Epicoco, Charles S.P. Foster, Florian Jabbour, Agathe Haevermans, Thomas Haevermans, Rebeca Hernández, Stefan A. Little, Stefan Löfstrand, Javier A. Luna, Julien Massoni, Sophie Nadot, Susanne Pamperl, Charlotte Prieu, Elisabeth Reyes, Patrícia Dos Santos, Kristel M. Schoonderwoerd, Susanne Sontag, Anaëlle Soulebeau, Yannick Staedler, Georg F. Tschan, Amy Wing-Sze Leung, Jürg Schönenberger

Recent advances in molecular phylogenetics and a series of important palaeobotanical discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of angiosperm diversification. Yet, the origin and early evolution of their most characteristic feature, the flower, remains poorly understood. In particular, the structure of the ancestral flower of all living angiosperms is still uncertain. Here we report model-based reconstructions for ancestral flowers at the deepest nodes in the phylogeny of angiosperms, using the largest data set of floral traits ever assembled. We reconstruct the ancestral angiosperm flower as bisexual and radially symmetric, with more than two whorls of three separate perianth organs each (undifferentiated tepals), more than two whorls of three separate stamens each, and more than five spirally arranged separate carpels. Although uncertainty remains for some of the characters, our reconstruction allows us to propose a new plausible scenario for the early diversification of flowers, leading to new testable hypotheses for future research on angiosperms.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Université Paris XI - Paris-Sud, University of California, Davis, University of London, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Museum national d'Histoire Naturelle, Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UFSJ), The University of Sydney, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Harvard University, University of Gothenburg, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Universität Zürich (UZH)
Nature Communications
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106042 Systematic botany, 106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research, 106003 Biodiversity research
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Chemistry(all), Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all), Physics and Astronomy(all)
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