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The Role of Seed and Pollen Grains in Life on Land

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  • 0:00 Seed Plants
  • 0:45 History and Evolution
  • 1:49 Adaptation to Life on Land
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson goes over some of the important adaptations various seed plants have developed, ones that have allowed them to thrive on land, including places other plants (like seedless ones) have not been able to colonize.

Seed Plants

Seed plants are everywhere around you as you walk outside. Some are obvious, like sunflowers that produce sunflower seeds. Others aren't as obvious, like redwood trees. Actually, these are both good examples of the two kinds of seed plants around us today. They are gymnosperms, which are vascular plants like pines that have naked seeds, and angiosperms, which are flowering plants that have seeds inside a protective chamber. In general, a seed can be seen as a key adaptation of certain land-based plants that consists of an embryo, a cache of food, and a protective coat.

This lesson will focus on two key concepts related to these seed plants. We'll discuss their evolution as well as how they've adapted to living on land.

History and Evolution

Scientists believe that the very first seed plants emerged about 360 million years ago. However these early seed plants are now extinct, and it wasn't until about 55 million years later that gymnosperms still around today arose and roughly 200 million years later that angiosperms came into existence.

Initially, it was the gymnosperms that thrived because they were better adapted to the drier climate at the time. One reason for this is the fact that gymnosperms have a very small surface area to their leaves, the needles, compared to angiosperms that have much broader leaves. This lessens the rate at which precious water evaporates from the plants. It was about 100 million years ago that our planet started to become dominated by angiosperms, and nowadays, the most diverse and widespread of plants aren't gymnosperms like conifers (pine trees and the like). Instead, they are the angiosperms, the plants that produce flowers and fruits.

Adaptation to Life on Land

And, these flowers and fruits are necessary for angiosperms to live on land. Flowers allow for insects to transfer pollen from one plant to the flower on another plant in a direct fashion for fertilization. This is good, as such transfer doesn't depend on the unpredictable whims of pollen being spread around by the wind, something most gymnosperms rely on.

Fruits are another great adaption for life on land as they help spread around the seed contained within the fruit. Think about all the tasty fruits produced by trees that animals then eat. The edible fleshy part is digested but the seeds pass through their digestive tract unharmed, only to be pooped out and deposited elsewhere, helping to spread the plant's geographic location and genes to other parts of the land.

One other extremely important adaptation to life on land that seed plants have developed is something called the pollen grain, a structure that consists of a male gametophyte within a pollen wall. A gametophyte is a structure that makes gametes, the sex cells. The pollen wall encasing this gametophyte is like a protective shell that protects the gametophyte as it is transported around by animals or by the wind.

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