Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (8): 806-817.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2018.0053

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Diversity and evolution of samara in angiosperm

TAN Ke,DONG Shu-Peng,LU Tao,ZHANG Ya-Jing,XU Shi-Tao,REN Ming-Xun()   

  1. Center for Terrestrial Biodiversity of the South China Sea, Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Forestry, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, China
  • Received:2018-03-05 Online:2018-08-20 Published:2018-12-07
  • Contact: Ming-Xun REN
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31670230);Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31660229);the Innovative Team Program of Hainan Natural Science Foundation(2018CXTD334);the Postgraduate Innovative Grant of Hainan Province(Hyb2016-06)


Samara (winged fruit) can be dispersed easily by wind and may be a crucial factor for angiosperm spread and diversification. In a narrow sense, a samara is an indehiscent dry fruit with wing(s) developed from fruit pericarp, while in a broad sense samaras also include all winged fruits with wings developed from both pericarp and perianth or bracts. According to the wing shape and growth patterns of samaras, we divided samaras into six types, i.e. single-winged, lanceolate-winged, rib-winged, sepal-winged, bract-winged, and perigynous samaras. Perigynous samaras can be further classified into two forms, i.e. round-winged and butterfly-winged samaras. Accordingly, the aerodynamic behavior of samaras can be classified into five types, autogyro, rolling autogyro, undulator, helicopter, and tumbler. The rib-winged and round-winged samaras can be found in Laurales, a basal angiosperm, and may represent the primitive type of early samaras. In the derived clades, samaras evolved enlarged but unequal wings and decreased wing loading (the ratio of fruit weight to wing size), which is likely an adaptation to gentle wind and secondary dispersal through water or ground wind. The wings of some samaras (such as sepal-winged and bract-winged samaras) may have multiple functions including wind dispersal, physical defense for the seeds, and adjust seed germination strategy. The pantropical family Malpighiaceae is extraordinarily rich in samara types, which is likely related to its multiple inter-continent dispersal in history, which is known as “Malpighiaceae Route”. Therefore, Malpighiaceae can be used as a model system for the studies on samara adaptation and evolution. We identified the following issues that deserve further examination in future studies using both ecological and evo-devo methods: 1) the adaption of different types of samaras in dispersal processes, 2) the molecular and developmental mechanism of sepal- and bract-wings, and 3) the evolution of samara types and their effects on angiosperm diversification.

Key words: samara, long-distance dispersal, Malpighiaceae Route, adaptive evolution