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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 40(3)

Heteroblasty in bromeliads – anatomical, morphological and physiological changes in ontogeny are not related to the change from atmospheric to tank form

Kerstin Meisner A, Uwe Winkler A and Gerhard Zotz A B C

A Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, AG Funktionelle Ökologie, Universität Oldenburg, 26111 Oldenburg, Germany.
B Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apdo 08343-03092, Panama, Republic of Panama.
C Corresponding author. Email: gerhard.zotz@uni-oldenburg.de

Functional Plant Biology 40(3) 251-262 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP12201
Submitted: 6 July 2012  Accepted: 4 October 2012   Published: 23 November 2012

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Heteroblasty is defined as an abrupt change in gross morphology during ontogeny, whereas homoblastic species show no or gradual changes. For Bromeliaceae, there are conflicting reports on a very limited number of species on the functional importance of this step change compared with gradual changes (ontogenetic drift). Studying a large set of species should allow more general conclusions. Seventeen homoblastic and heteroblastic species from Panama were investigated, including the entire size range of most species. Measurements included functionally relevant anatomical (water storage tissue), morphological (stomatal and trichome densities) and physiological parameters (transpiration rates, nutrient uptake rates). Size-related variation in all parameters was common, but evidence for a step change in the studied parameters could not be detected in any of the heteroblastic species. Our results caused us to question the widely held view of the course of the ontogenetic development in heteroblastic bromeliads and their functional implications. These findings suggest that the possible functional relevance of heteroblasty in bromeliads require rethinking and future investigations should employ a comparative approach with both homoblastic and heteroblastic species and including the entire size range to account for ontogenetic drift.

Additional keywords: foliar nutrient uptake, foliar trichomes, ontogenetic drift, phosphate, potassium, stomata.


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