Is the anthophyte hypothesis alive and well? New evidence from the reproductive structures of Bennettitales

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  • Bennettitales is an extinct group of seed plants with reproductive structures that are similar in some respects to both Gnetales and angiosperms, but systematic relationships among the three clades remain controversial. This study summarizes characters of bennettitalean plants and presents new evidence for the structure of cones and seeds that help clarify relationships of Bennettitales to fl owering plants, Gnetales, and other potential angiosperm sister groups. Bennettitales have simple mono- or bisporangiate cones. Seeds are borne terminally on sporophylls. They have a unique structure that includes a nucellus with a solid apex, no pollen chamber, and a single integument, and they are clearly not enclosed by a cupule or other specialized structures. Such features differ substantially from Gnetales, fl owering plants, and the seed fern Caytonia , providing no compelling evidence for the origin of the angiospermous carpel. Cladistic tests were performed to assess the strength of the “ anthophyte hypothesis ” and possible relationships of Bennettitales, Gnetales, and Caytonia to fl owering plants. Our results do not support the anthophyte hypothesis for the origin of angiosperms by a transformation of fertile organs that were already aggregated into a cone or fl ower-like structure. However, the anthophyte topology of the seed plant tree continues to be supported by morphological analyses of living and extinct taxa.

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    This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • GW Rothwell, WL Crepet and RA Stockey. "Is the anthophyte hypothesis alive and well? New evidence from the reproductive structures of Bennettitales." American Journal of Botany 96 (2009): 296-322. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.0800209