Philomatry in plants: why do so many species have limited seed dispersal?

Differential susceptibility of distinct parts of the aquatic plant Nymphoides humboldtiana to herbivory supports the optimal defense theory

Many have noted limited seed dispersal of plants in diverse environments and attempted evolutionary explanations for it. Although philopatric (‘love of fatherland’) is used by zoologists to describe organisms that remain near their place of origin, philomatric (‘love of motherland’) is proposed as more appropriate for plants because seeds develop on the maternal parent, fecundity and dispersal are maternally influenced characteristics, and the term dovetails with the mother‐site hypothesis (MSH) for the evolution of restricted dispersal. Proximate reasons for philomatry include intrinsic drivers such as morphological features of diaspores and where on the maternal parent they are produced. Extrinsic drivers include local environmental conditions, surrounding vegetation, and ineffective dispersal agents. The MSH proposes that selection should favor philomatry in a population adapted to a particular habitat because offspring will likewise be adapted to that same habitat. Several studies show philomatry can mitigate distance‐dependent costs of dispersing into surrounding inhospitable areas. Undispersed diaspores can eliminate energetic costs of accessory structures or biochemicals needed by dispersible diaspores, but it is unclear whether these costs are significant to the evolution of philomatry. Disadvantages of limited dispersal are (a) inability to escape deteriorating habitat conditions, (b) inability to colonize new habitats, and (c) inbreeding among offspring. Heterocarpic species offset these disadvantages by producing dispersed plus undispersed diaspores. A conceptual framework is presented relating dispersal distance to the probability of seedling establishment. Future research should recognize dispersal as a covarying syndrome of multiple life history traits and focus on ecological selection agents that favor philomatry.
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Source: Online Library, Wiley

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