Evolutionary ecophysiology of seed desiccation sensitivity

Alexandre Marques, Gonda Buijs, Wilco Ligterink, Henk Hilhorst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Desiccation sensitive (DS) seeds do not survive dry storage due to their lack of desiccation tolerance. Almost half of the plant species in tropical rainforests produce DS seeds and therefore the desiccation sensitivity of these seeds represents a problem for and long-term biodiversity conservation. This phenomenon raises questions as to how, where and why DS (desiccation sensitive)-seeded species appeared during evolution. These species evolved probably independently from desiccation tolerant (DT) seeded ancestors. They adapted to environments where the conditions are conducive to immediate germination after shedding, e.g. constant and abundant rainy seasons. These very predictable conditions offered a relaxed selection for desiccation tolerance that eventually got lost in DS seeds. These species are highly dependent on their environment to survive and they are seriously threatened by deforestation and climate change. Understanding of the ecology, evolution and molecular mechanisms associated with seed desiccation tolerance can shed light on the resilience of DS-seeded species and guide conservation efforts. In this review, we survey the available literature for ecological and physiological aspects of DS-seeded species and combine it with recent knowledge obtained from DT model species. This enables us to generate hypotheses concerning the evolution of DS-seeded species and their associated genetic alterations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1095
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number11
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2018


  • dormancy
  • intermediate seeds
  • orthodox seeds
  • seed size


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