The seed morphospace, a new contribution towards the multidimensional study of angiosperm sexual reproductive biology

Angelino Carta, Filip Vandelook, Santiago Ramirez-Barahona, Si-Chong Chen, John Dickie, Tina Steinbrecher, Costas A. Thanos, Angela T. Moles, Gerhard Leubner-Metzger, Efisio Mattana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


• Background. The evolutionary success of flowering plants is associated with the vast
diversity of their reproductive structures. Despite recent progress in understanding angiosperm-wide trends of floral structure and evolution, a synthetic view of the diversity in seed form and function across angiosperms is lacking.
• Scope. Here we present a roadmap to synthesise the diversity of seed forms in extant
angiosperms, relying on the morphospace concept, i.e. a mathematical representation which relates multiple traits and describes the realised morphologies. We provide recommendations on how to broaden the range of measurable traits beyond mass, by using key morphological traits representative of the embryo, endosperm, and seed coat but also fruit attributes (e.g., dehiscence, fleshiness). These key traits were used to construct and analyse a morphospace to detect evolutionary trends and gain insight into how morphological traits relate to seed functions. Finally, we outline challenges and future research directions, combining the morphospace with macroevolutionary comparative methods to underline the drivers that gave rise to the diversity of observed seed forms.
• Conclusions. We conclude that this multidimensional approach has the potential, although
still untapped, to improve our understanding of covariation among reproductive traits, and further elucidate angiosperm reproductive biology as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Early online date17 Jul 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jul 2024

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