Reserve mass and dispersal investment in relation to geographic range of plant species: phylogenetically independent contrasts

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Recent studies have reported conflicting evidence about correlations between seed size and plant species geographic range sizes. Using phylogenetically independent contrasts (PICs) within genera, we found no consistent differences in reserve mass between species with similar dispersal morphology and «wide» versus «narrow» geographic ranges. There was also no tendency within genera for broad ranged species to be those that allocate a larger percentage of the resources invested in each diaspora to dispersal structures. PICs were also constructed between species having a tenfold difference in seed size. In these PICs, the larger seeded species often occupied a greater number of regions than species with smaller seed sizes. This result was generated primarily through the comparison of species from different genera, families or higher level taxa which differed not only in seed mass but also in dispersal modes and growth forms. Finally, comparing species within Acacia and Eucalyptus having similar seed size but different dispersal modes, we found that bird dispersal (in Acacia) and possession of a wing for wind dispersal (in Eucalyptus) was associated with wider geographic range compared to lower-investment dispersal modes. Taken together, these comparisons indicate that seed size is not itself important as a factor influencing breadth of geographic range. Dispersal mode and growth form may have an influence, however, and seed size differences may be associated with contrasts in dispersal mode or growth form.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Biological Sciences and Research Unit for Biodiversity and Bioresources, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 1996

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