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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology

 

Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 38(7)

The evolution and functional significance of leaf shape in the angiosperms

Adrienne B. Nicotra A H , Andrea Leigh B , C. Kevin Boyce C , Cynthia S. Jones D , Karl J. Niklas E , Dana L. Royer F and Hirokazu Tsukaya G

A Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
B School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.
C Department of the Geophysical Sciences, 5734 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
D Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, 75 N. Eagleville Road, Unit-3043, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.
E Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, 412 Mann Library Building, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
F Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University, 265 Church Street, Middletown, CT 06459, USA.
G Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Science Build #2, 7-3-1 Hongo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.
H Corresponding author. Email: adrienne.nicotra@anu.edu.au
This paper is part of an ongoing series: ‘The Evolution of Plant Functions’.

Functional Plant Biology 38(7) 535-552 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP11057
Submitted: 28 February 2011  Accepted: 30 May 2011   Published: 12 July 2011


 
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Abstract

Angiosperm leaves manifest a remarkable diversity of shapes that range from developmental sequences within a shoot and within crown response to microenvironment to variation among species within and between communities and among orders or families. It is generally assumed that because photosynthetic leaves are critical to plant growth and survival, variation in their shape reflects natural selection operating on function. Several non-mutually exclusive theories have been proposed to explain leaf shape diversity. These include: thermoregulation of leaves especially in arid and hot environments, hydraulic constraints, patterns of leaf expansion in deciduous species, biomechanical constraints, adaptations to avoid herbivory, adaptations to optimise light interception and even that leaf shape variation is a response to selection on flower form. However, the relative importance, or likelihood, of each of these factors is unclear. Here we review the evolutionary context of leaf shape diversification, discuss the proximal mechanisms that generate the diversity in extant systems, and consider the evidence for each the above hypotheses in the context of the functional significance of leaf shape. The synthesis of these broad ranging areas helps to identify points of conceptual convergence for ongoing discussion and integrated directions for future research.

Additional keywords:compound leaf, leaf dissection, leaf margin, leaf size, leaves, lobbing.


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