Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Wenheng Zhang

Second Advisor

Bonnie L. Brown


Observations of floral development indicate that floral organ initiation in pentapetalous flowers more commonly results in a medially positioned abaxial petal (MAB) than in a medially positioned adaxial petal (MAD), where the medial plane is defined by the stem and the bract during early floral development. It was proposed that the dominant MAB petal initiation might impose a developmental constraint that leads to the evolution of limited patterns of floral zygomorphy in Asteridae, a family in which the floral zygomorphy develops along the medial plane and results in a central ventral (CV) petal in mature flowers. Here, I investigate whether the pattern of floral organ initiation may limit patterns of floral zygomorphy to evolve in pentapetalous angiosperms. I analyzed floral diagrams representing 405 species in 330 genera of pentapetalous angiosperms to reconstruct the evolution of floral organ initiation and the evolution of developmental processes that give rise to floral zygomorphy on a phylogenetic framework. Results indicate that MAB petal initiation is the most common; it occupies 86.2% of diversity and represents the ancestral state of floral organ initiation in pentapetalous angiosperms. The MAD petal initiation evolved 28 times independently from the ancestral MAB petal initiation. Among the 34 independent originations of floral zygomorphy, 76.5% of these clades represent MAB petal initiation, among which only 47% of the clades result a CV petal in mature flowers. The discrepancy is explained by the existence of developmental processes that result in floral zygomorphy along oblique planes of floral symmetry in addition to along the medial plane. Findings suggest that although the early floral organ initiation plays a constraining role to the evolution of patterns of floral zygomorphy, the constraint diverges along phylogenetically distantly related groups that allow the independent originations of floral zygomorphy through distinct development processes in pentapetalous angiosperms. In additional study, the butterfly-like flowers of Schizanthus are adapted to pollination by bees, hummingbirds, and moths. I investigated the genetic basis of the zygomorphic corolla, for which development is key to the explosive pollen release mechanism found in the species of Schizanthus adapted to bee pollinators. I examined differential gene expression profiles across the zygomorphic corolla of Schizanthus pinnatus, a bee-pollinated species, by analyzing RNA transcriptome sequencing (RNA- seq). Data indicated that CYC2 is not expressed in the zygomorphic corolla of Sc. pinnatus, suggesting CYC2 is not involved in the development of floral zygomorphy in Schizanthus (Solanaceae). The data also indicated that a number of genes are differentially expressed across the corolla.


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Available for download on Thursday, August 10, 2017