Sequencing Shows That Different Lengths of Supergene Underlie Convergent Evolution of Differing Lengths of Male & Female Sexual Organs in Distylous Flowers; These Different Lengths Promote Efficient Cross-Pollination by Insect Pollinators, As First Predicted by Darwin

Scientists have solved the century-old mystery of a supergene that causes efficient cross-pollination in flowers. The results show that sequence length variation at the DNA level is important for the evolution of two forms of flowers that differ in the length of their sexual organs. The study was published September 9, 2022 in Current Biology. The open-access article is titledGenomic Analyses of the Linum Distyly Supergene Reveal Convergent Evolution at the Molecular Level.” Gardeners and botanists have known since the 1500s that some plant species have two forms of flowers that differ reciprocally in the length of their male and female sexual organs. Darwin first proposed that such distylous flowers promoted efficient cross-pollination by insect pollinators. Early geneticists showed that the two forms of flowers were controlled by a single chromosomal region likely harboring a cluster of genes, a supergene—but, until recently, this supergene had never been sequenced.
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