The paradox of seed size and adaptation

Trends Ecol Evol. 1989 Jan;4(1):24-6. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(89)90013-X.


Correlations between habitat and seed size suggest that this character is adaptive. Mean seed size is a relatively invariant species characteristic and seed size has marked effects upon fitness. These observations have previously led to the conclusion that seed size is under stabilizing selection. This conclusion, originally based mainly on evidence from crop plants grown in controlled environments, is questioned here on the grounds that recent studies of wild plants show marked phenotypic plasticity and low heritability of seed size. If seed size is not readily altered by natural selection in the wild, then its effects on fitness are evidence that this character is a constraint on habitat distribution. Constancy of mean seed size may be due to developmental canalization to a size set by previous selection, rather than a continuing process of stabilizing selection.