Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Geographic gradients in seed size among and within perennial Australian Glycine species

Brad R. Murray, A. H. D. Brown and J. P. Grace

Australian Journal of Botany 51(1) 47 - 56
Published: 18 February 2003


In the Northern Hemisphere, a latitudinal gradient of increasing seed size towards the equator has been well documented. Because of a paucity of studies from the Southern Hemisphere, however, the global generality of this latitudinal gradient in seed size is unknown. This study investigated variation in seed size in relation to latitude among and within perennial Glycine species across Australia. Seed size was estimated from over 1500 provenances covering the latitudinal, longitudinal and altitudinal extents of 37 taxa within the subgenus. In order to ensure that any observed latitudinal gradient in seed size existed independently of two other major geographic variables, longitude and altitude, we controlled for their influence via the use of general linear models. Among species, a significant negative relationship emerged between seed size and latitude when latitude was considered on its own and after accounting for the influence of longitude and altitude in models. For Australian populations of the subgenus Glycine, mean species seed size increased by 4.23% with each shift of one degree of latitude towards the equator and increased significantly along an east–west cline across the continent, by 2.25% with each degree of longitude. This latter relationship was obtained both when longitude was considered on its own and after controlling for the influence of latitude and altitude in models. Patterns of seed size variation with latitude and longitude within species mirrored patterns among species, although there were some notable exceptions. Altitude was significantly related to seed size among species only after removing the linear effects of latitude and longitude, when the trend was for lowland species to have smaller seeds. In contrast to the interspecific pattern, some intraspecific negative trends were found within G. canescens and G. cyrtoloba, which accords with Baker's hypothesis for an inverse relation between seed size and altitude. We discuss the relationships between seed size and the three geographic variables in the subgenus Glycine, with respect to environmental factors that could account for the trends detected.

© CSIRO 2003

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