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Polyembryony in Melastomataceae from Brazilian Cerrado: multiple embryos in a small world

Authors

  • C. Mendes-Rodrigues,

    1. Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Conservação de Recursos Naturais, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Uberlândia, Brazil
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  • P. E. Oliveira

    1. Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Conservação de Recursos Naturais, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Uberlândia, Brazil
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  • Editor
    T. Elzenga

P. E. Oliveira, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, Caixa Postal 593, Uberlândia, Minas Gerais CEP 38400-902, Brazil.
E-mail: poliveira@ufu.br

Abstract

Polyembryony has been commonly associated with apomixis in the angiosperms and seems to be more common than expected, even in biomes where sexual reproduction processes are predominant. Recent studies in Cerrado, the Neotropical savannas of Central Brazil, showed high frequencies of apomixis and polyembryony and indicated these processes as reproductive and evolutionary alternatives for plants in these areas. In this sense, we investigated the occurrence of polyembryony and its relationships with ecological (season and type of dispersal, ploidy, species distribution and breeding system) and taxonomic (tribe) factors in the Melastomataceae, a mostly tropical family already known for its high frequency of apomixis and very common in Cerrado. We collected seeds from 69 populations of 53 species, which were sown in germination chambers. After seed germination, the presence and number of seedlings per seed were evaluated as a method to estimate polyembryony. We encountered 18 species (33.96%) with polyembryony (more than one seedling, or gemellar seedlings, originated per seed) concentrated in species of the tribe Miconieae (64%) and Microlicieae (16.67%), but absent in Melastomeae. Monoembryony was present only in sexual species, while all apomictic species were polyembryonic. In Miconia, the polyembryony was correlated with polyploidy, and monoembryony with diploid species. Polyembryony was more common among species with wide distribution in the Cerrado region, which indicates that the presence of gemellar seedlings is important for establishment and survival of the group in the Cerrado biome.

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