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Characteristics of fleshy fruits in southeast Alaska: phylogenetic comparison with fruits from Illinois

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Over 30 species of fleshy-fruited plants are found in southeast Alaska. In this paper we examine traits such as plant growth form, phenology, fruit color, seed load, pulp dry weight, and pulp nutrient content and compare them with those of fruits from central Illinois. Two comparative methods (continuous time Markov model and phylo-Anova) were used to compare both qualitative and quantitative traits between the two regions. Although fleshy-fruited plants from SE Alaska appear to be predominantly shrubs or herbs in contrast to central Illinois, where trees and vines tend to be more common, no significant differences among growth forms were found when accounting for plant phylogeny. In SE Alaska, most fruits mature in August and September, whereas most fruits mature later in the autumn in Illinois. Red fruits are more common in Alaska than in Illinois, where blue-black fruits predominate. Alaskan fruits have a significantly greater seed load than fruits in Illinois, while pulp dry weight does not differ between the two regions. Although the proportion of sugars and lipids in the pulp was not statistically different between the two regions, total reward of the pulp (estimated as the absolute amount of sugars plus twice the amount of lipids, as lipids provide about twice the energy of sugars) was greater in Alaskan than in Illinois fruits. Neither phylogenetic constraints nor selection by frugivores appear to account fully for the regional distribution of fruit characteristics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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