Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seed dispersal: plant height seems to be more important than seed size!

I really like papers that teach me something that I didn’t know. But, I love papers that show me that what I learned is wrong. This is the case of a new paper by Fiona Thomson, Angela Moles, Tony Auld, and Richard Kingsford on seed dispersal that appears in the last issue of the Journal of Ecology. This group from Australia analyzed the effects of seed size and plant height on their dispersal abilities. They reviewed intensively the literature gathering data on 200 species from 148 studies around the world. Surprisingly to me, they found plant height was much better at predicting seed dispersal than seed size. This might not sound so surprising for many people (and after seeing the paper, kind of intuitive), but there was a lot of evidence that seed size was the best predictor of dispersal, with species with smaller seeds dispersing further than species with bigger seeds. For wind dispersed species, their results are more intuitive, but they found this pattern in a number dispersal syndromes analyzed (i.e. unassisted, wind, ballistic, ingestion, and ant dispersal). So, in your next study on seed dispersal consider adding plant height as an explanatory variable.

Thomson, F. J., A. T. Moles, T. D. Auld, and R. T. Kingsford. 2011. Seed dispersal distance is more strongly correlated with plant height than with seed mass. Journal of Ecology 99:1299-1307. DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2011.01867.x

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