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Fleshy-fruitedness in the New Zealand flora

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AimIt has been claimed that the New Zealand flora has an unusually high frequency of fleshy-fruitedness. This paper tests whether fleshy-fruitedness is indeed more common in New Zealand than in other temperate floras, then examines the distribution of fleshy-fruitedness among taxa and floristic elements to determine whether the flora conforms to predictions for a continental island with a relictual floristic element. Lastly, I test the extent to which fleshy-fruitedness has influenced colonization success and subsequent speciation within New Zealand.

MethodsInformation on fruit characteristics for all indigenous seed plants was extracted from the Flora of New Zealand series and analysed with χ2 tests.

ResultsContrary to previous claims fleshy-fruitedness was not unusually common in the New Zealand flora as a whole, when compared with other temperate floras. It is only more common in alpine communities and among trees. I also found no evidence for selective immigration; fleshy-fruited New Zealand genera were not more likely, than dry-fruited genera, to also occur in Australia. Furthermore there is no evidence that the New Zealand environment has favoured fleshy-fruited taxa; there has been no autochthonous evolution of fleshy-fruitedness in New Zealand, fleshy-fruitedness has had no significant effect on speciation within New Zealand, and endemic genera are no more likely to be fleshy-fruited than nonendemic genera. Fleshy-fruitedness in New Zealand is, however, strongly related to floristic elements of the flora. New Zealand is a continental island and therefore, theoretically, those elements of the flora dating from a time when the landmass was less isolated, should show a more balanced representation of dispersal modes. Contrary to this, fleshy-fruitedness is more common among species in Gondwanan taxa or in taxa with pollen records dating to before the Miocene.

Main conclusionsFleshy-fruitedness in New Zealand conforms to neither the expectations for an isolated landmasses, namely a disharmonic range of dispersal modes, nor expectations for a continental island. I suggest that this pattern may be a product of selective survival of highly vagile taxa in the low-lying archipelago that was New Zealand during the late Cretaceous to mid-Cenozoic, followed by an invasion by taxa with a broader range of dispersal modes facilitated by the establishment of the circumpolar current.
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Keywords: Biogeography; Gondwana; New Zealand; colonization; dispersal; fleshy fruit; speciation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Botany Department, Otago University, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Email:, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 1999-11-01

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