A phylogenetic analysis of the evolution of wind pollination in the angiosperms

Jannice Friedman, Spencer C.H. Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Wind pollination is predominantly a derived condition in angiosperms and is thought to evolve in response to ecological conditions that render animal pollination less advantageous. However, the specific ecological and evolutionary mechanisms responsible for transitions from animal to wind pollination are poorly understood in comparison with other major reproductive transitions in angiosperms, including the evolution of selfing from outcrossing and dioecy from hermaphroditism. To investigate correlations between wind pollination and a range of characters including habitat type, sexual system, floral display size, floral showiness, and ovule number, we used a large-scale molecular phylogeny of the angiosperms and maximum likelihood methods to infer historical patterns of evolution. This approach enabled us to detect correlated evolution and the order of trait acquisition between pollination mode and each of nine characters. Log likelihood ratio tests supported a model of correlated evolution for wind pollination and habitat type, floral sexuality, sexual system, flower size, flower showiness, presence versus absence of nectar, and ovule number. In contrast, wind pollination and geographical distribution and number of flowers per inflorescence evolve independently. We found that in wind-pollinated taxa, nectar is lost more often and ovule number is reduced to one. We also found that wind pollination evolves more frequently in lineages already possessing unisexual flowers and/or unisexual plants. An understanding of the ecological and life-history context in which wind pollination originates is fundamental to further investigation of the microevolutionary forces causing transitions from animal to wind pollination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Anemophily
  • Comparative analysis
  • Correlated evolution
  • Ecological correlates
  • Morphological correlates
  • Pollination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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