Pollination

Pollination

As spring winds to a close, many individuals breathe a sigh of relief as there is suddenly a significant decrease in the amount of pollen in the air. Breathing becomes much easier for these individuals afflicted with an allergy to pollen. However, pollen is not some mythological demi-god’s idea of a twisted joke at humanities expense.  Instead, it is part of a process called pollination, which is necessary for plant reproduction.  In this article, I will discuss pollination and how it relates to the origins debate.

Pollination is defined as follows by dictonary.com: “the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma”. This definition is actually incomplete, but we will get to that in a moment. I’ve recently written an article on the flowers of spring, specifically as a primer for this article so if you haven’t read it yet, now would be a good time. That shameless bit of advertising aside, the anther produces the pollen, which is the male gamete of plants. The stigma functions as the female gamete’s receptacle for the pollen. However, getting the pollen to the stigma does not end the process as the above definition seems to imply.  Instead, once the pollen reaches the stigma, the pollen grains must burrow through the stigma to reach the plant ovary, which is at the base of the stigma. Once inside the ovary, the pollen will bind with the egg cells and develop into seeds.

The astute among you have undoubtedly already noticed that I left out a very important step in the preceding paragraph. How does the pollen get from anther to stigma? Pollen have no natural method of locomotion. Something has to get the pollen from the anther to the stigma since pollen has no natural way to move itself. There are several ways that pollen moves from flower to flower. Some of these require animals, others are completely autonomous.

There are two overall methods that plants use to carry the pollen from one flower to another. One method plants use is referred to as an abiotic method. These methods do not require an organism to complete pollination. The methods of abiotic pollination include wind pollination, which is the vast majority of the abiotic pollination. The only other method of abiotic pollination is by means of water, which is used mostly for water plants and some ground dwelling plants which rely on rain water. The other form of pollination is biotic pollination, which requires an animal agent. This is the form of pollination we think of most commonly. Bees and birds are the most common agents of pollination but other creatures are used as well.

Some flowers also self-pollinate, thus not relying on either abiotic, or biotic pollinators to ensure the survival of their genetics. This, however, has its drawbacks. If a self pollinating plant develops a mutation, it has no means to mask the mutation in its genetics since it does not share gametes with a different individual.  This means no new information can be introduced to mask the mutation in the genome. However, this risk is somewhat abrogated by the guarantee that each flower will produce seeds for a new plant, something not guaranteed to other plants.

Many plants are designed in such a way that they require specialized pollinators in order to survive. For example, the yucca flower requires the pollination for the yucca moth. No other creature can pollinate the yucca plant.  This is by no means the only plant with this problem. Some orchids require a single species of bee, specifically the male bee, to pollinate them. Every single species of fig has a specific species of fig wasp that must pollinate it. This hints at design, but it is far from the first aspect of pollination to do so.

Pollination had to be designed. There is far more than anecdotal evidence for this claim. The fact that hundreds, if not thousands of plant species rely on specific species of animals to pollinate them raises a question. Was this system designed, or did each plant and animal pollinator evolve separately? If there were two or three, the argument could be made that they evolved separately. However, since there could be thousands, this argument falls apart. The likelihood of one evolving is low. The likelihood of thousands evolving, each separately, is practically zero.

Further, how can evolution explain anything other than self-pollination? Consider this fact. Self-pollination guarantees that each flower will produce some seeds unless it is eaten first. Since evolution is all about passing on genes, why would any flower want to do anything other than self-pollinate? Self-pollination is a guarantee that genes will be passed on. Cross-pollination, the alternative, offers no such guarantee. Certainly the genome benefits but remember, evolution is a blind random chance process. It does not know the genome benefits from cross-pollination. Therefore it should only select for things that are directly beneficial for the passing on of genetics. It would never select for cross-pollination because it is less than a complete guarantee.

Evolution fails on a grand scale when it comes to pollination. It cannot explain cross-pollination, nor can it explain the specialized pollination methods of many plants. It cannot even explain where pollination came from, as it vastly differs from most other forms of reproduction. Only a wise Master Designer, Jesus Christ, could have put in place the pollination system that is rife with intricate details, many, as yet, unexplored.

 

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