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Ann Bot. 2005 Dec;96(7):1321-30. Epub 2005 Oct 17.

The relationship between nuclear DNA content and leaf strategy in seed plants.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.



Species' 2C-values (mass of DNA in G(1) phase 2n nuclei) vary by at least four orders of magnitude among seed plants. The 2C-value has been shown to be co-ordinated with a number of other species traits, and with environmental variables. A prediction that species 2C-values are negatively related to leaf life span (LL) and leaf mass per area (LMA) is tested. These leaf traits are components of a major dimension of ecological variation among plant species.


Flow cytometry was used to measure the 2C-values for 41 Australian seed plant species, 40 of which were new to the literature. Where possible, LL and LMA data from the global literature were combined with 2C-values from our data set and online C-value databases.


Across all species, weak positive relationships were found between 2C-values and both LL and LMA; however, these did not reflect the relationships within either angiosperms or gymnosperms. Across 59 angiosperm species, there were weak negative relationships between 2C-values and both LL (r2 = 0.13, P = 0.005) and LMA (r2 = 0.15, P = 0.002). These relationships were the result of shifts to longer LL and greater LMA in woody compared with herbaceous growth forms, with no relationships present within growth forms. It was not possible to explain a positive relationship between 2C-values and LMA (r2 = 0.30, P = 0.024) across 17 gymnosperm species. The 2C-value was not related to LL or LMA either across species within orders (except for LMA among Pinales), or as radiation divergences in a model phylogeny.


Gymnosperms appear to vary along a spectrum different from angiosperms. Among angiosperms, weak negative cross-species relationships were associated with growth form differences, and traced to a few divergences deep in the model phylogeny. These results suggest that among angiosperms, nuclear DNA content and leaf strategy are unrelated.

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