Heterocarpy diversifies diaspore propagation of the desert shrub Ammopiptanthus mongolicus

Yong Zhi Yang, Rong Zhang, Run Hong Gao*, Min Wei Chai, Min Xin Luo, Bing Hong Huang, Pei Chun Liao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In the desert, plant diaspore spreading usually relies on both external vectors, such as wind, and internal factors, such as diaspore shape. Ammopiptanthus mongolicus is a heterocarpous shrub species in the cold desert in northwest China. Mature pods may have dehisced or not yet dehisced when abscising, and the dehiscent pods may be twisted or flattened. The propagation distances of diaspores might vary due to differences in their buoyancies in upward air and ground friction according to pod shape. The wind tunnel experiments were conducted to measure the horizontal displacement upon fruit dropping (D1) and the wind-blown distance traveled by a fallen pod (D2) of A. mongolicus. A generalized linear mixed model and generalized linear model were used to test the effects of pod shape, release height, wind speed and ground substrate type on the spread distance of pods. D1 is jointly determined by the effects of release height and pod shape. Wind speed, pod shape and ground substrate type together affect D2. A twisted pod has higher dispersibility than a flat pod, and dehiscent pods spread further than indehiscent ones. The positive correlation of D1 and D2 indicates that the difference in pod shape additively broadens the range of seed-spreading distance. Differential seed-spreading properties could be adaptively advantageous to disperse the risks associated with diasporic dissemination compared with the maintenance of a single optimal dissemination characteristic. Thus, heterodiaspory is an advantageous adaptive characteristic for seed spreading in the windy, arid and harsh desert environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-207
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Species Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr


  • dispersal
  • heterocarpous
  • seed spread
  • selective advantage
  • wind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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