Adansonia digitata and Adansonia gregorii fruit shells serve as a protection against high temperatures experienced during wildfires

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Abstract

The thick and woody shell of the fruit of Adansonia species cannot be explained solely by adaptation to zoochory or hydrochory. Since the trunks of Adansonia possess a thick and fire-resistant bark and wildfires occur regularly in its habitat (savannah), we examined with the African Adanonia digitata and the Australian Adansonia gregorii whether the fruit offers protection against high heat typically experienced in wildfires. Heat-resistance tests were conducted by applying a simple heat test based on known temperature and temperature residence times occurring in savannah fires and complemented by tests to reveal the impact of heat on germination since long-term seed dormancy is known for Adansonia. Germination tests with acid treated and heat treated seeds were performed to establish if heat also increased germination rate as effectively as acid treatments have been found to do. Heat was found to increase germination rate, but not as effectively as treatment with acid, therefore fruits exposed to high temperatures experienced in wildfires may have a better chance of germination than fruits that were not exposed to wildfires. The ability of the investigated fruits to protect seeds from high temperatures suggests that wildfires may have played a role in the evolution of the hard-shell structure typically found in Adansonia.

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Kempe, A., Neinhuis, C., & Lautenschläger, T. (2018). Adansonia digitata and Adansonia gregorii fruit shells serve as a protection against high temperatures experienced during wildfires. Botanical Studies, 59(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40529-018-0223-0

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