The repeated evolution of large seeds on islands

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Several plant traits are known to evolve in predictable ways on islands. For example, herbaceous species often evolve to become woody and species frequentlyevolve larger leaves, regardless of growth form.However, our understanding of how seed sizes might evolve on islands lags far behind other plant traits. Here,we conduct the first test for macroevolutionary patterns of seed size on islands. We tested for differences in seed size between 40 island-mainland taxonomic pairings from four island groups surrounding New Zealand. Seed size data were collected in the field and then augmented by published seed descriptions to produce a more comprehensive dataset. Seed sizes of insular plants were consistently larger than mainland relatives, even after accounting for differences in growth form, dispersal mode and evolutionary history. Selection may favour seed size increases on islands to reduce dispersibility, as longdistance dispersalmay result in propagulemortality at sea. Alternatively, larger seeds tend to generate larger seedlings, which are more likely to establish and outcompete neighbours. Our results indicate there is a general tendency for the evolution of large seeds on islands, but the mechanisms responsible for this evolutionary pathway have yet to be fully resolved. © 2014 The Authors Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.




Kavanagh, P. H., & Burns, K. C. (2014). The repeated evolution of large seeds on islands. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1786).

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