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Nature. 2008 May 1;453(7191):94-7. doi: 10.1038/nature06733. Epub 2008 Mar 19.

Hydatellaceae are water lilies with gymnospermous tendencies.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


The flowering plant family Hydatellaceae was recently discovered to be allied to the ancient angiosperm lineage Nymphaeales (water lilies). Because of its critical phylogenetic position, members of the Hydatellaceae have the potential to provide insights into the origin and early diversification of angiosperms. Here I report that Hydatella expresses several rare embryological features that, in combination, are found only in members of the Nymphaeales. At maturity, the female gametophyte is four-celled, four-nucleate and will produce a diploid endosperm, as is characteristic of most early divergent angiosperm lineages. As with all members of the Nymphaeales, endosperm in Hydatella is minimally developed and perisperm is the major embryo-nourishing tissue within the seed. Remarkably, Hydatella exhibits a maternal seed-provisioning strategy that is unique among flowering plants, but common to all gymnosperms: pre-fertilization allocation of nutrients to the embryo-nourishing tissue. This exceptional case of pre-fertilization maternal provisioning of a seed in Hydatella may well be an apomorphic feature of Hydatellaceae alone but, given the newly discovered phylogenetic position of this family, potentially represents a plesiomorphic and transitional condition associated with the origin of flowering plants from gymnospermous ancestors.

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