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Keywords:

  • mean time to germination;
  • phylogenetically independent contrasts;
  • seed mass;
  • trait conservatism;
  • tropical trees

Summary

  • 1
    Theoretical models predict that large-seeded species should germinate more rapidly than small-seeded species, since large seeds are more likely to have higher post-dispersal seed predation than small seeds. A prompt germination strategy would therefore enable large seeds to reduce risks of mortality.
  • 2
    To assess this predicted relationship between seed mass and mean time to germination (MTG), we used a meta-analysis of published data sources. Our data base contained information for these two traits for 1037 tree species from five tropical areas worldwide (Brazil, India, Ivory Coast, Malaysia and Panama). Both cross-species analyses and phylogenetically independent contrasts (PIC) were conducted on the log-transformed values of seed mass and MTG.
  • 3
    Log-seed mass was a significantly phylogenetically conserved trait in all five data sets. Log-MTG was significantly phylogenetically conserved in all sites except for Malaysia and India.
  • 4
    Log-MTG and log-seed mass were significantly positively correlated in all sites except for Malaysia. PIC analyses showed a significantly positive relationship in Brazil, India and Ivory Coast but not in Malaysia and Panama. When all sites were combined, PIC analyses indicated a significant positive relationship between these two traits.
  • 5
    Our findings do not support the hypothesis that large seeds germinate faster than small seeds, but rather that small seeds germinate faster. We interpret our results in light of phylogenetic and biophysical constraints. We propose four alternative mechanisms that could account for the observed pattern, including developmental constraints, water absorption and investment to physical defences.