Is Sex Necessary?: For Dandelions, Apparently Not.

dandy2.jpgSend In The Clones

Few plants generate such annoyance among suburban homeowners with immaculate lawnscapes as the common dandelion (in North America, most likely Taraxacum officinale).

Despite efforts to eradicate them using chemical warfare (see here for info on such herbicides), the dandelions exhibit a remarkable ability to proliferate.

And they do so likely because they produce seeds asexually, that is, without the complications of sexual reproduction, such as pollination.

This is because most dandelions reproduce by a process called apomixis.

Unlike other forms of asexual reproduction in plants such as vegetative plant propagation via cuttings, apomixis is asexual reproduction via seeds.

In the case of most dandelions (i.e., Taraxacum officinale), the embryo in the seed forms without meiosis, thus the offsping are genetically identical to the parent.

Hence, most, if not all, of the dandelions in your neighborhood may be clones.

What are the benefits of apomixis?

Well, despite the lack of the evolutionary benefits of sexual reproduction (lack of diversity), apomixis allows for the “mass production” of seeds, which appears to be an effective strategy for dandelion propagation.

Bottom line: By rapidly producing cloned offspring, sex is certainly not necessary for the common dandelion.

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