Plant Diversity ›› 2020, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (02): 83-91.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2019.12.002

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Spinescent patterns in the flora of Jiaozi Snow Mountain, Southwestern China

Qi Xua,b, Simcha Lev-Yadunc, Lu Suna,b, Zhe Chena,b, Bo Songa, Hang Suna   

  1. a Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 132 Lanhei Road, Kunming, 650201, Yunnan, China;
    b University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China;
    c Department of Biology & Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa-Oranim, Tivon, 36006, Israel
  • Received:2019-05-17 Revised:2019-12-19 Online:2020-04-25 Published:2020-04-30
  • Supported by:
    We thank Yunfei Deng (Acanthaceae expert), Limin Lu (Vitaceae expert), Fang Wen (Gesneriaceae expert), Bo Li (Polygonaceae expert), Bo Liu (Symplocaceae expert), Long Wang (Asteraceae expert), Yi Yang (Rhamnaceae expert) and Yaping Chen (Lamiaceae expert) for their assistance with species identification and information supplement in related taxa. We thank Buyun Zhang and Lu Gan for his sketch of spinescence, and Lishen Qian for his help in figure editing. This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFC0505200), the Major Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31590820), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31570228, 31770249), the Young Academic and Technical Leader Raising Foundation of Yunnan Province (2016HB062), the Ten-thousand Talents Program of Yunnan Province (YNWR-QNBJ-2018-208), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association, CAS (2017437), and the CAS “Light of West China” Program to B.S. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions.

Abstract: Spinescence has been thought to have evolved mainly as a defense against herbivores. Thus, studying its evolution in a whole flora is an excellent approach for understanding long-term planteherbivore interactions. In this study, we characterized the spinescent plant species of Jiaozi Snow Mountain, Southwestern China, in order to explore the effects of life forms, plant organs, phylogenetic position, and phytogeographical origin on spinescence occurrence. The Jiaozi Snow Mountain flora includes 137 spinescent species (9.2%) out of 1488 angiosperm species. We found that in these spinescent species, vegetative organs (70.0%) were significantly more defended than reproductive organs (43.8%). Life form had a significant effect on spinescence occurrence. Woody species (18.6%) were more likely to be spiny than non-woody species (6.4%); moreover, woody species mostly defend their vegetative organs (92.2%), whereas herbaceous species mostly defend their reproductive organs (73.3%). For woody plants, leaf habit has a significant effect on spinescence. Specifically, spinescence was more common on the reproductive organs of deciduous woody species than on those of evergreen woody species; furthermore, spinescence was more common on the leaf blades of evergreens than on those of deciduous species; however, the proportion of spinescent petioles in deciduous species was significantly higher than in evergreens. The most common spine color was yellow (40.8%), followed by white (16.8%), red (15.8%), and brown (14.3%); furthermore, 74.4% of spinescence that showed aposematic color was a different color than the plant organ on which grown. These findings suggest that spinescence is visually aposematic in the Jiaozi Snow Mountain flora. Phylogenetically, more families tended to have spines on vegetative organs (83.3% in vegetative organs, 50.0% in reproductive organs), but the phylogenetic signals were weak. The proportion of spinescence was not significantly different between tropical (9.8% of genera, 7.6% of species) and temperate (13.2% of genera, 9.5% of species) elements. These results indicate that in the Jiaozi Snow Mountain flora spinescence evolved differently in various life forms and plant organs, but that these differences were not influenced by phylogenetic position or phytogeographical origin.

Key words: Herbivory, Life form, Physical defense, Trade-off, Plant apparency, Spinescence