Monday, April 26, 2010

Flowers and male gamete selection

Regular readers of this blog will know that one of the ideas discussed most herein is that because of the effects of their bodies upon intraejaculate sperm selection, girls are sexually pleased by virtue in a male in a way that older females aren't (a phenomenon I call nymphetal philokalia). I have been thinking lately (this morning) that something analogous involving competition between male gametes happens in flowers (which somehow remind me of girls). As a whole, what a species of flowering plants needs is for bees (say) to not stick around too much on one particular plant. Moving from one plant to another is necessary for pollination. But obviously there is a sense in which any particular plant can gain somewhat by selfishly attracting bees for a longer period of time. After all, the longer the period one is attractive to bees, the longer the period in which they can pollinate you or take your pollen. So what can account for flowering plants being able to evolve flowers such as to especially encourage getting pollinated right away?

If a flower gets pollinated right after it opens, that is a sign that the sort of bee that wants it wants nectar immediately the flowers opens. In consequence, it is a sign that it has been pollinated with pollen from a plant whose nectar bees want so soon as the flowers open. But it isn't just that flowers that get pollinated immediately tend to be pollinated by pollen from flowers attractive to bees that tend to pollinate immediately. The immature delicacy of the flower to be pollinated presumably is such that it is most easily fertilized by pollen especially skilled at competitively penetrating (during fertilization) the more fragile youthful flowers; and (at least to the extent such pollen really is from plants whose flowers give up all their nectar at once) this pollen tends to (diploidly) code for studly plants, because being able to attract bees in a short time span is unselfishly difficult and thus not some mere unimpressive result of selfishness. If a flower that gives up its nectar all at once has its pollen carried to a flower on some other plant so soon as the latter flower opens, it is a sign that indeed the former flower is attractive of bees that want flowers so soon as they open, an awesome studly trait that flowering plants need to reproduce and survive. The subtle point necessary for understanding is that it's not that unselfish behavior (like giving up nectar mostly all at once upon the flower opening) in itself that is significantly studly in the sense that it allows a plant to survive better. After all, if a plant gives up all its nectar at once, who is to say it won't be visited only by some bad bee or fly or whatever that after lounging about on the old flowers two bushes over has decided it worth its lazy wings to fly a few yards way over there yonder and slurp up that newly opened mega nectar slurpee flower it chanced to notice ere some other bug does. But the thing is, after the bad bee or whatever is done with his mega nectar slurpee (maybe getting some pollen on him), it's not like he is going to fly all over the neighborhood looking for another (usually hard to find) yummee newly opened mega nectar slurpee flower of the same species, which of course is what the plant needs. No, he will presumably be too lazy to fly that far. Unselfishness, of course, can be disadvantageous to survival (that's why selfish people tend to do selfish things). But if a bee carrying pollen then lands on a very youthful flower, gimminy Christmas, the youth and fragility of the flower not only selects for pollen coding for plants trying to attract bugs with unselfishness (by giving its nectar right away), it also selects for pollen coding for plants unselfishly trying to attract bugs that want flowers right after they opened who actually succeed in attracting the right sort of bee, namely the bee that actually greatly prefers getting nectar from flowers immediately after they open, a very impressive studly trait the female flower needs in the pollen that fertilizes her!