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Long‐distance dispersal syndromes matter: diaspore–trait effect on shaping plant distribution across the Canary Islands

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Oceanic islands emerge lifeless from the seafloor and are separated from continents by long stretches of sea. Consequently, all their species had to overcome this stringent dispersal filter, making these islands ideal systems to study the biogeographic implications of long‐distance dispersal (LDD). It has long been established that the capacity of plants to reach new islands is determined by specific traits of their diaspores, historically called dispersal syndromes. However, recent work has questioned to what extent such dispersal‐related traits effectively influence plant distribution between islands. Here we evaluated whether plants bearing dispersal syndromes related to LDD – i.e. anemochorous (structures that favour wind dispersal), thalassochorous (sea dispersal), endozoochorous (internal animal dispersal) and epizoochorous (external animal dispersal) syndromes – occupy a greater number of islands than those with unspecialized diaspores by virtue of their increased dispersal ability. We focused on the native flora of the lowland xeric communities of the Canary Islands (531 species) and on the archipelago distribution of the species. We controlled for several key factors likely to affect the role of LDD syndromes in inter‐island colonization, namely: island geodynamic history, colonization time and phylogenetic relationships among species. Our results clearly show that species bearing LDD syndromes have a wider distribution than species with unspecialized diaspores. In particular, species with endozoochorous, epizoochorous and thalassochorous diaspore traits have significantly wider distributions across the Canary archipelago than species with unspecialized and anemochorous diaspores. All these findings offer strong support for a greater importance of LDD syndromes on shaping inter‐island plant distribution in the Canary Islands than in some other archipelagos, such as Gal├ípagos and Azores.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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