Seed size and its rate of evolution correlate with species diversification across angiosperms

PLoS Biology
Javier IgeaAndrew J Tanentzap


Species diversity varies greatly across the different taxonomic groups that comprise the Tree of Life (ToL). This imbalance is particularly conspicuous within angiosperms, but is largely unexplained. Seed mass is one trait that may help clarify why some lineages diversify more than others because it confers adaptation to different environments, which can subsequently influence speciation and extinction. The rate at which seed mass changes across the angiosperm phylogeny may also be linked to diversification by increasing reproductive isolation and allowing access to novel ecological niches. However, the magnitude and direction of the association between seed mass and diversification has not been assessed across the angiosperm phylogeny. Here, we show that absolute seed size and the rate of change in seed size are both associated with variation in diversification rates. Based on the largest available angiosperm phylogenetic tree, we found that smaller-seeded plants had higher rates of diversification, possibly due to improved colonisation potential. The rate of phenotypic change in seed size was also strongly positively correlated with speciation rates, providing rare, large-scale evidence that rapid morphological change is asso...Continue Reading


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