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Pollination With Precision: How Flowers Do It

Brown University biologists report that flowers have evolved an elegant safeguard system to ensure that only the minimum necessary number of pollen tubes will reach each ovule. The discovery of how flowers manage the distribution of sperm among female gametes with industrial precision helps explain why the delicate beauties have reproduced prolifically enough to dominate the earth. In order for the flowers to succeed in pollination, exactly two fertile sperm should reach the two cells in each ovule — no more, no less. No ovule should be left out, either because too many tubes have gone elsewhere, or because the delivered sperm don't work. Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology at Brown and senior author on the paper detailing the discovery added that, "Until fusion has happened, there's no guarantee that you'll have successful seed formation.”

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