8
$\begingroup$

I have always wondered why flowers reproduce with the same species naturally. Why can't the pollen grains get to a different species flower through via the wind, water, or insects?

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Sometimes they do. There are many naturally-occuring hybrids of (close) species where their ranges overlap, and many more produced by human intervention. But in a sense the question is backwards: things become different species because they can't easily interbreed: either by geographic or temporal separation (that is, they bloom at different times), or perhaps some biochemical incompatibility. If they could easily interbreed, they'd be the same species :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 27 '17 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ I know with cactus at least some self-fertile plants will ripen the male and female sex parts at different times. The female parts will mature and accept pollen from nearby neighbors, then the male parts mature and provide pollen to any plants with mature female parts (possibly even itself. $\endgroup$ – Tim Nevins Jul 27 '17 at 20:04
8
$\begingroup$

The pollen from a given species of flower does get transmitted to other flowers of different species (like you said, through air, insects, etc.)..the problem though is that those two species of flowers are just that!: they are two different species, and by definition, aren't able to reproduce amongst one another.

I would recommend looking into the definition of a species. There isn't a single, blindly-conformed-to definition, however, its most commonly accepted that a species can be defined by the "boundaries" in which that species can or can't produce offspring with other organisms. Organisms that can produce offspring together are generally considered to be of the same species.

There are odd cases though where some interspecies reproduction occurs, such as a donkey and a horse producing a mule. Yet, if two mules were to attempt sexual reproduction, they wouldn't be successful in producing offspring (mules are sterile). So, this is a tricky situation to define, in terms of if the donkey and horse are the same species or not, since they can produce offspring, yet that offspring is a dead-end, so to speak.

A different example.. if (somehow) a chicken attempted sexual reproduction with a pigeon, the sperm would reach the females egg, however, no offspring would occur.

A major impedence of offspring occurring for interspecies reproduction comes down to the mechanics of meiosis, and how chromosomes match up with each other throughout the process. Chromosomes need to be of similar size, shape, etc., in order to properly pair with their complement during meiosis. Also, the correct number of chromosomes need to be present. These dynamics, as well as many others, get messed up when interspecies reproduction is attempted.

I hope this addresses your curiousity.. All the best!

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It's even more blurry - mules aren't always sterile. The definition really is more along the lines of "their offspring aren't easily capable of having their own offspring". And while donkeys and horses are considered separate species, mules (and honkeys) aren't. Humans like their nice little categories, but nature rarely fits those boxes :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jul 27 '17 at 17:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I don’t think this is a helpful answer; it just falls back on an unhelpful and inaccurate “definition” that isn’t definitive at all. $\endgroup$ – KRyan Jul 27 '17 at 22:33
5
$\begingroup$

To complement what Charles (Darwin is it you? :)) said, and JM97 hinted at the comments, there is also another factor impeding the cross pollination between different species, that is the pollen-pistil interaction.

Basically whichever pollen can come in contact with the flower but only pollens carrying specific recognition signals (I'm not an expert but I suppose is specific compounds on the coating of the pollen that are recognized by the pistil) can actually start the fertilization process.

This has of course interesting consequences, namely self-pollination incompatibility: some plants are more than happy to self pollinate (e.g. barley or Arabidopsis) but some others use this same process to exclude the pollen coming from the same plant and only allow fertilization from pollen coming from other plants of the SAME species (basically what most European royal families were NOT doing...)

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.