Evolutionary and ecological correlates of early seedling morphology in east African trees and shrubs

Amy E. Zanne*, Colin A. Chapman, Kaoru Kitajima

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Seed size and cotyledon morphology are two key juvenile traits that have evolved in response to changes in plant species life-history strategies and habitat associations. Correlations of these traits with each other and with other juvenile traits were examined for 70 species of trees and shrubs in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Although species with photosynthetic cotyledons were more abundant than in other tropical floras, both univariate and multivariate analyses supported trait associations expected from the literature. Trait values varied continuously across species, yet mean trait values differed significantly among habitat association types. Species with large seeds, large seedlings, thick storage cotyledons, slow germination, large-stature adults, and dispersal by large animals were common in forest and gap habitats. An opposite suite of traits was common in open habitats (grassland and edge). Analyses incorporating phylogeny (independent contrasts and omnibus tests) confirmed that these suites of traits showed correlated evolution. Cotyledon functional morphology yielded a strong phylogenetic signal, while seed mass was labile. Nevertheless, contingent change tests found that evolutionary change from photosynthetic to reserve cotyledons was more likely when disperser and perhaps seed size of ancestral species were already large, suggesting a strong interdependency among these traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)972-978
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


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