Adaptation and Constraint in the Plant Reproductive Phase
Conservatism is a central theme of organismic evolution. Related species share characteristics due to their common ancestry. Some concern have been raised among evolutionary biologists, whether such conservatism is an expression of natural selection or of a constrained ability to adapt.This thesis explores adaptations and constraints within the plant reproductive phase, particularly in relation to the evolution of fleshy fruit types (berries, drupes, etc.) and the seasonal timing of flowering and fruiting. The different studies were arranged along a hierarchy of scale, with general data sets sampled among seed plants at the global scale, through more specific analyses of character evolution within the genus Rhamnus s.l. L. (Rhamnaceae), to descriptive and experimental field studies in a local population of Frangula alnus (Rhamnaceae). Apart from the field study, this thesis is mainly based on comparative methods explicitly incorporating phylogenetic relationships. The comparative study of Rhamnus s.l. species included the reconstruction of phylogenetic hypotheses based on DNA sequences.Among geographically overlapping sister clades, biotic pollination was not correlated with higher species richness when compared to wind pollinated plants. Among woody plants, clades characterized by fleshy fruit types were more species rich than their dry-fruited sister clades, suggesting that the fleshy fruit is a key innovation in woody habitats. Moreover, evolution of fleshy fruits was correlated with a change to more closed (darker) habitats.An independent contrast study within Rhamnus s.l. documented allometric relations between plant and fruit size. As a phylogenetic constraint, allometric effects must be considered weak or non-existent, though, as they did not prevail among different subclades within Rhamnus s.l. Fruit size was correlated with seed size and seed number in F. alnus. This thesis suggests that frugivore selection on fleshy fruit may be important by constraining the upper limits of fruit size, when a plant lineage is colonizing (darker) habitats where larger seed size is adaptive.Phenological correlations with fruit set, dispersal, and seed size in F. alnus, suggested that the evolution of reproductive phenology is constrained by trade-offs and partial interdependences between flowering, fruiting, dispersal, and recruitment phases. Phylogenetic constraints on the evolution of phenology were indicated by a lack of correlation between flowering time and seasonal length within Rhamnus cathartica and F. alnus, respectively. On the other hand, flowering time was correlated with seasonal length among Rhamnus s.l. species. Phenological differences between biotically and wind pollinated angiosperms also suggested adaptive change in reproductive phenology.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology; phenology; fleshy fruits; phylogenetic comparative methods; phylogenetic constraints; Rhamnus; Frangula; Frangula alnus; key innovations; allometry; diversity; phylogeny; seed size; frugivory; germination; recruitment
Date of Publication:01/01/2004