What is it about?
Members of the relict tree genus Zelkova (Ulmaceae) possess a unique dispersal mechanism: mature fruits fall with the entire twig, and the dried leaves, still attached, behave as a drag-enhancing appendage, almost like a parachute. This singular adaptation has never been investigated previously with modern methods.
Photo by Vick Mellon on Unsplash
Why is it important?
Our results clearly demonstrate the flying capacities of the Z. abelicea dispersal units. Much more surprising is, however, that the dispersal behaviour is virtually the same as in its East Asiatic relatives. Members of the genus Zelkova, growing today in areas thousands of kilometres apart, show evolutionary conservation of the velocity and flight mode of their dispersal units. The Mediterranean and East Asiatic Zelkova species have been separated at least 15–20 mya. Zelkova abelicea, although growing under a completely different forest structure, still uses the same dispersal mechanism.
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This page is a summary of: Velocity of the falling dispersal units in
: remarkable evolutionary conservation within the relict tree genus, American Journal of Botany, December 2020, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.1581.
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