Climatic determinants of acorn size and germination percentage of Quercus rugosa (Fagaceae) along a latitudinal gradient in Mexico
Background. Abiotic constraints, historical effects of the last glaciation, and differential dispersal, have been proposed as potential explanations to account for the latitudinal decrease in acorn size of wide-ranging oak species distributed in the U.S. and Canada.
Hypothesis. We specifically tested the abiotic constraints hypothesis on oak acorn size in a geographical area without the counfounding influence of glaciation and related dispersal history.
Data description. Acorns from seven populations of the white oak Quercus rugosa were collected, encompassing the distribution of the species in Mexico.
Study site and years of study. Mexico, 2009-2010.
Results. Acorn length, width, mass and volume differed significantly among populations and indicated a marked clinal latitudinal reduction in acorn size. A multiple regression model revealed that this reduction in size (measured as acorn volume) can be explained by two important bioclimatic variables (growing season precipitation and growing season degree-days above 5 °C), while spatial variables (latitude and longitude) are not significant. Furthermore, germination percentage was significantly correlated to acorn mass and volume.
Conclusions. The main determinants of the latitudinal decline in acorn size are climate factors constraining seed development. This decline is maladaptive for seedling establishment, with important implications for the delination of northern limits of species ranges.
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