It’s fruit Jim, but not as we know it

There’s an interesting paper we’ve just moved to free access: Gymnosperm B-sister genes may be involved in ovule/seed development and, in some species, in the growth of fleshy fruit-like structures by Lovisetto et al. The idea that seeds are associated with fruits should be no surprise. Animals eat the fruits and disperse the seeds, so the plant can spread its genes. Fruit from gymnosperms would be a surprise though, because you’d expect the fruit to grow from a flower and gymnosperms don’t have flowers, those are angiosperms.

However, the cover image for the August 2013 Annals of Botany shows ovules of Gingko biloba that grow a fleshy structure that attracts animals. What’s going on?

Ginkgo biloba
Ovules of the gymnosperm Ginkgo biloba. Image by Lovisetto et al. 2013

The answer seems to be in the genes. Both angiosperms and gymnosperms have B-sister genes that work to grow fruit. It looks like the foundation of growing fruit around a seed could pre-date the development of flowers.

You can read more free at Annals of Botany.