Seed flotation in some widespread, oceanic-dispersed trees and their island-endemic congeners

Jedediah F. Brodie, Joaquin R. Brodie, Niko P. Brodie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variation in plant dispersal capabilities strongly influences the assembly of island plant communities. Many tropical plants have seeds capable of long-distance, often oceanic, dispersal; in some cases, these taxa speciate into island interior endemics with reduced dispersal capabilities, though whether this is a general pattern is debated. Flotation times are highly variable among plants with oceanic dispersal and between such plants and their inland congeners. Here, we experimentally compared salt-water flotation in three woody plant genera in Palau, Micronesia, comparing broadly distributed and island endemic species within each genus. The widespread Calophyllum inophyllum (with oceanic and vertebrate dispersal), C. soulattri (vertebrate dispersal), and Terminalia catappa had substantially longer flotation than their inland endemic relatives C. pelewense and T. crassipes. This supports the “Loss of dispersal ability” hypothesis for Calophyllum though, for Terminalia, additional phylogenetic information is needed to determine T. crassipes' sister species. Seed flotation in the widespread, oceanic dispersed Pandanus tectorius did not significantly differ from that of the Palau endemics P. palawensis and P. aimiriikensis. Our results highlight that differences among taxa in dispersal modes, speciation modes, and their interactions may influence the assembly of island floras.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • dispersal syndromes
  • oceanic dispersal
  • plant community assembly
  • taxon cycle
  • thalassochory


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