AuthorLarios Cárdenas, Eugenio
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
AdvisorVenable, D. Lawrence
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractSeed size is regarded as a functional trait with very important consequences for the fitness of plant species. Seedlings emerging from larger seeds are more competitive but are more costly to produce than seedlings from smaller seeds. Seed size is also a trait with transgenerational effects, affecting both the fitness of the parent as well as that of the offspring. Theory on the evolution of offspring size predicts an optimum balance between size and number, seen from the parent's perspective; while empirical studies often show selection for larger seeds, seen from the offspring's perspective. Seed size selection arising from post germination traits is, however, often not unidirectional, nor operating with the same strength in all life history stages of the plant. Seed size selection is also environmentally dependent. Even environmental influence might not operate with the same consistency and strength uniformly through the plant's life cycle. This dissertation is intended to study these questions concerning the dynamics of seed size selection in the wild. This work is to my knowledge, the first to document how seed size selection operates through the whole life cycle, with naturally germinated annual plants from the Sonoran Desert. In my first chapter I explored the offspring fitness consequences of seed size in a multiyear observational study using plant demography and relating vital rates (germination, survival, and fecundity) to the size of the seeds that originate individual plants and the environmental variables of precipitation and competition. I detected positive directional selection operating both through survival and fecundity. Water availability increased both survival and fecundity but also strengthened survival selection and had no effect on fecundity selection. Competition detrimental effects were only observed in fecundity but not in plant survival. In my second chapter I ask whether seed size-specific germination could influence seed size selection later in the life cycle. We found that because germination is differential in relation to seed size, the time of optimal conditions for germination in the field would determine the variance of seed size in the germinated fraction and thus influencing the strength of seed size selection operating through survival. In my third chapter I explored the dispersal consequences of phenotypic plasticity in seed provisioning. We found that mother plants that experienced more competition made smaller seeds and affected the seed dispersal process. Smaller seeds were better able to disperse farther away from their mothers and therefore increased their probability of escaping competition in the next growing season. These studies demonstrated that seed size selection varies through the life cycle and in intensity depending on interactions with the environment.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology