Seedlings from large seeds tolerate defoliation better

a test using phylogenetically independent contrasts

Doug P. Armstrong, M. Westoby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

171 Citations (Scopus)


The authors tested whether large-seeded species are better able than small-seeded species to withstand defoliation at the seedling stage, comparing growth and survival of seedlings of 40 species of Australian angiosperms after removing 95% of their photosynthetic tissue shortly after emergence. The phylogenetic path connecting the two species of any pair was independent of the path connecting the two species of any other pair used. The two members of each pair also differed at least 10-fold in seed mass. Therefore, each pair provided an independent case for examining the consequences of evolutionary divergence in seed size. The larger seeded species survived loss of photosynthetic tissue better than the smaller seeded species in 14 of the 16 pairs for which there was a significant difference in survival. The extent to which growth of survivors was reduced by loss of photosynthetic tissue also differed in eight pairs, with the large-seeded species being less affected in six of these cases. Larger seed size is generally associated with greater ability of seedlings to cope with loss of photosynthetic tissue. Consequently, large seed size may be favored in any circumstances in which seedlings are likely to experience carbon deficit early in development. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1092-1100
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1993

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