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Data from: The adaptive value of heterospory: evidence from Selaginella


Petersen, Kurt B.; Burd, Martin (2018), Data from: The adaptive value of heterospory: evidence from Selaginella, Dryad, Dataset,


Heterospory was a pivotal evolutionary innovation for land plants, but it has never been clear why it evolved. We used the geographic distributions of 114 species of the heterosporous lycophyte Selaginella to explore the functional ecology of microspore and megaspore size, traits that would be correlated with many aspects of a species’ regeneration niche. We characterized habitats at a global scale using leaf area index (LAI), a measure of foliage density and thus shading, and net primary productivity (NPP), a measure of growth potential. Microspore size tends to decrease as habitat LAI and NPP increase, a trend that could be related to desiccation resistance or to filtration of wind-borne particles by leaf surfaces. Megaspore size tends to increase among species that inhabit regions of high LAI, but there is an important interaction with NPP. This geographical pattern suggests that larger megaspores provide an establishment advantage in shaded habitats, although in open habitats, where light is less limiting, higher productivity of the environment seems to give an advantage to species with smaller megaspores. These results support previous theoretical arguments that heterospory was originally an adaptation to the increasing height and density of Devonian vegetative canopies that accompanied the diversification of vascular plants with leaves.

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