J Syst Evol ›› 2008, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (3): 396-404.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1002.2008.08039

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Evolution of fruit types and seed dispersal:A phylogenetic and ecological snapshot

Claire M. LORTS, Trevor BRIGGEMAN, Tao SANG*   

  1. (Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA) sang @msu.edu
  • Received:2008-03-26 Published:2008-05-18

Abstract: Success of flowering plants is greatly dependent on effective seed dispersal. Specific fruit types aid different mechanisms of seed dispersal. However, little is known about what evolutionary forces have driven the diversification of fruit types and whether there were phylogenetic constraints on fruit evolution among angio-sperm lineages. To address these questions, we first surveyed the orders and families of angiosperms for fruit types and found no clear association between fruit types and major angiosperm lineages, suggesting there was little phylogenetic constraint on fruit evolution at this level. We then surveyed fruit types found in two contrasting habitats: an open habitat including the Indian desert and North American plains and prairies, and a closed forest habitat of Australian tropical forest. The majority of genera in the survey of tropical forests in Australia were fleshy fruit trees, whereas the majority of genera in the survey of prairies and plains in central North America were herbs with capsules and achenes. Both capsules and achenes are frequently dispersed by wind in the open, arid habitat, whereas fleshy fruits are generally dispersed by animals. Since desert and plains tend to provide continuous wind to aid dispersal and there are more abundant mammal and bird dispersers in the closed forest, this survey suggests that fruit evolution was driven at least in part by dispersal agents abundant in particular habitats.

Key words: adaptation, angiosperm, animal dispersal, development, wind dispersal