Double Fertilization in Ephedra, a Nonflowering Seed Plant: Its Bearing on the Origin of Angiosperms

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Science  23 Feb 1990:
Vol. 247, Issue 4945, pp. 951-954
DOI: 10.1126/science.247.4945.951


Double fertilization and the associated formation of endosperm have long been considered unique and defining characters (autapomorphies) of the angiosperms. During normal fertilization in Ephedra nevadensis, a nonflowering seed plant, fusion of a second sperm nucleus with the ventral canal nucleus occurs regularly within the egg cytoplasm. The occurrence of double fertilization in Ephedra assumes added significance in light of its critical phylogenetic position as a basal member of the most closely related extant group of seed plants (Gnetales) to angiosperms. Thus, double fertilization in angiosperms and Ephedra may represent an evolutionary homology.

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