2006 Student Research Conference:
19th Annual Student Research Conference


Computational Modeling of Flight Characteristics for Extant and Fossil Saccate Pollen Grains
George Wang* and Andrew B. Schwendemann
Dr. Jeffrey M. Osborn and Dr. Scott Thatcher, Faculty Mentors

The pollen grains of many wind-pollinated conifers have one to three air-filled sacci, which are thought to add surface area, yet add minimal weight, thereby increasing dispersal distance. Using the saccate pollen grains of three extant conifers (Pinus, Falcatifolium, Dacrydium), electron microscopy and mathematical modeling, a computational model has been developed to study pollen flight. The model uses structural characters of pollen grains to calculate terminal settling velocity. Modeling pollen both with and without sacci indicates that sacci can increase dispersal range. The advantage of a mathematical model that is based on structural characters is that flight properties can be measured without physically testing pollen, providing the opportunity to model flight dynamics of fossil pollen. Examples of several fossils will be described, including non-saccate (Monoletes), mono-saccate (Gothania), and bi-saccate (Pteruchus, Caytonanthus, Pinus) pollen types. A technique to mathematically expand compressed fossil pollen to their original shape will be demonstrated.

Keywords: pollen, fossil, ultrastructure, morphology, modeling, conifer

Topic(s):Mathematical Biology

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 13-3
Location: OP 2210
Time: 8:45

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