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Gymnosperms were dominant in the Mesozoic Era (about 252.2 million to 66 million years ago), during which time few of the modern families originated (Pinaceae, Araucariaceae, Cupressaceae). Although because the Cretaceous period (about 145 million come 66 million years ago) gymnosperms have been gradually displaced by the more recently advanced angiosperms, they space still successful in many parts that the world and also occupy large areas of earth’s surface. Conifer forests, because that example, cover vast regions of north temperate lands, and gymnosperms commonly grow in an ext northerly latitudes than perform angiosperms.


wind pollination
Windblown pollen from the masculine cone the a lodgepole jaw (Pinus contorta).
Robert J. Erwin/Science Source

The gametophyte phase starts when the microspore, while still in ~ the microsporangium, starts to germinate to type the masculine gametophyte. A solitary microspore nucleus divides by mitosis to produce a couple of cells. At this phase the masculine gametophyte (called a pollen grain) is shed and transported by wind or insects.

Female ovulate cones, dubbed megastrobili, may be borne top top the same plant the bears microstrobili (as in conifers) or on different plants (as in cycads and Ginkgo). A megastrobilus contains many scales, dubbed megasporophylls, that contain megasporangia. Within every megasporangium, a solitary cell experience meiotic division to develop four haploid megaspores, three of which generally degenerate. The staying megaspore undergoes mitosis to kind the woman gametophyte. As the number of complimentary nuclei multiplies, the megasporangium and megaspore wall surface expand. At this stage the ovule is prepared to be fertilized.

Before fertilization can take place, however, the mature male gametophyte (the pollen grain) have to be transported to the mrs gametophyte—the procedure of pollination. In many gymnosperms, a difficult “pollination droplet” oozes indigenous a tiny hole in the female megasporangium to capture pollen grains. The droplet is climate resorbed right into the megasporangium for fertilization. In various other species, the pollen grain handle on the surface of the megasporangium, where the male gametophyte develops further. A pollen pipe emerges indigenous the grain and grows v the megasporangium towards the multicell egg-containing structure dubbed the archegonium. The egg and also sperm proceed to mature, the cell nucleus of the latter undergoing additional divisions resulting in two male gametes, or sperm. Interestingly, cycads and Ginkgo space the just seed plants v flagellated sperm. By the time the pollen tube reaches the archegonium, both the egg and sperm are fully mature, and the egg is all set to it is in fertilized.

In gymnosperms, as soon as the nuclei that the 2 sperm satisfy the egg cell, one cell nucleus dies and the other unites through the egg nucleus to type a diploid zygote. The fertilized egg undergoes mitosis to begin the breakthrough of a new sporophyte generation—the multicellular embryo that the seed. Food for the occurring embryo is detailed by the huge starch-filled female gametophyte the surrounds it. The time interval between pollination and maturation that the embryo into a new sporophyte generation varies among different groups, ranging from a couple of months to end one year (in pine, because that example).

In gymnosperms such as cycads and also Ginkgo, the seeds coat is known as the sarcotesta and consists of two layers. The sarcotesta is often brightly coloured in cycads and the sarcotesta that Ginkgo seeds is foul-smelling as soon as ripe. The seed of part conifers have a thin winglike framework that may assist in the distribution of the seed. Others, such together yews, have a fleshy structure, well-known as one aril, neighboring the seed. The hat of juniper are fleshy and commonly consumed by birds.

Fleshy arils ~ above a european yew (Taxus baccata).

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At maturity, a gymnosperm embryo has two or more seed leaves, known as cotyledons. Cycads, Ginkgo, and gnetophytes have actually two cotyledons in the embryo; pine and also other conifers may have actually several (eight is common; some have as many as 18). In cycads and Ginkgo the cotyledons stay within the seed and serve come digest the food in the woman gametophyte and also absorb it right into the developing embryo. Conifer cotyledons commonly emerge from the seed and also become photosynthetic.