So this week I learned a brilliant thing about dandelions. The common dandelion has lost the ability to reproduce sexually, so now each flower is a clone. It seems that a mutation led to each cell containing three copies of each chromosome, instead of the usual two, and that buggers up the reshuffling and division of chromosomes necessary for sexual reproduction. But the sex organs are still there: dandelions still flower (obviously) and produce pollen, but that’s sterile and so utterly pointless, and the seeds contain the same triple-copy chromosomes as the parent plant.
What’s odd is that this mutation appears to have occurred several times, so there are actually several strains of asexual dandelions.
In the long run sexual reproduction is a better strategy, particularly in the evolutionary arms race against parasites, so species which lose the ability to get it on, so to speak, often only stick around for a few thousand years. Some comfort there for the gardeners.
That is interesting indeed. So they just non stop barf out seeds that don’t need fertilising?
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