Experimental evaluation and thermo-physical analysis of thermogenesis in male and female cycad cones

Oecologia. 2005 Jun;144(1):88-97. doi: 10.1007/s00442-005-0045-0. Epub 2005 May 11.


Thermogenically elevated cone temperatures were measured in two Macrozamia cycad species that differ in their daily heating time. Mathematical models of the cones' thermo-physics were tested for their accuracy in predicting these cone temperatures and for comparison of the energetics of both species and the sexes within species. These models accurately predicted temperatures over approximately 8-h periods with average errors of: 0.46 degrees C for Macrozamia lucida, pollinated by the thrips, Cycadothrips chadwicki, that moves during mid-day concurrent with cone heating; and 0.38 degrees C for Macrozamia machinii, pollinated by the weevil, Tranes sp., that moves after sunset during cone heating. The combination of models and experiments revealed a thermogenic sexual dimorphism in both species. For M. lucida, the estimated female mass specific metabolisms, and their theoretically possible and actual temperature increases due to thermogenic metabolism were only 57, 67, and 76% of males. In addition, female thermogenic metabolisms began and peaked much earlier and lasted significantly longer than males (all differences >1 h), and female metabolic peaks preceded their temperature peaks by 65 vs. 46 min for males. The timing of almost all male cone metabolic peaks was optimized with respect to the diurnal ambient heating cycle so that cone temperatures achieved a maximum temperature gain, whereas most female metabolic peaks occurred much earlier than optimal. In M. machinii, thermogenic sexual dimorphism is much larger since its male peak metabolisms are larger, and its females' peaks are much smaller compared to those of M. lucida. This study provides new information regarding the energetics of cycad cones that is relevant to understanding the interactions of the plant traits with their obligate pollinators' behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cycadopsida / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • New South Wales
  • Plant Components, Aerial / physiology*
  • Pollen / physiology
  • Queensland
  • Sex Factors
  • Temperature
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*