Stomatal vs. genome size in angiosperms

J. G. Hodgson, M. Sharafi, A. Jalili, S. Diaz, G. Montserrat-Marti, C. Palmer, B. Cerabolini, S. Pierce, B. Hamzehee, Y. Asri, Z. Jamzad, P. Wilson, J. A. Raven, S. R. Band, S. Basconcelo, A. Bogard, G. Carter, M. Charles, P. Castro-Diez, J. H. C. CornelissenG. Funes, G. Jones, M. Khoshnevis, N. Perez-Harguindeguy, M. C. Perez-Rontome, F. A. Shirvany, F. Vendramini, S. Yazdani, R. Abbas-Azimi, S. Boustani, M. Dehghan, J. Guerrero-Campo, A. Hynd, E. Kowsary, F. Kazemi-Saeed, B. Siavash, P. Villar-Salvador, R. Craigie, A. Naqinezhad, A. Romo-Diez, L. de Torres Espuny, E. Simmons

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    113 Citations (Scopus)


    Background and Aims Genome size is a function, and the product, of cell volume. As such it is contingent on ecological circumstance. The nature of 'this ecological circumstance' is, however, hotly debated. Here, we investigate for angiosperms whether stomatal size may be this 'missing link': the primary determinant of genome size. Stomata are crucial for photosynthesis and their size affects functional efficiency.

    Methods Stomatal and leaf characteristics were measured for 1442 species from Argentina, Iran, Spain and the UK and, using PCA, some emergent ecological and taxonomic patterns identified. Subsequently, an assessment of the relationship between genome-size values obtained from the Plant DNA C-values database and measurements of stomatal size was carried out.

    Key Results Stomatal size is an ecologically important attribute. It varies with life-history (woody species, herbaceous species < vernal geophytes) and contributes to ecologically and physiologically important axes of leaf specialization. Moreover, it is positively correlated with genome size across a wide range of major taxa.

    Conclusions Stomatal size predicts genome size within angiosperms. Correlation is not, however, proof of causality and here our interpretation is hampered by unexpected deficiencies in the scientific literature. Firstly, there are discrepancies between our own observations and established ideas about the ecological significance of stomatal size; very large stomata, theoretically facilitating photosynthesis in deep shade, were, in this study (and in other studies), primarily associated with vernal geophytes of unshaded habitats. Secondly, the lower size limit at which stomata can function efficiently, and the ecological circumstances under which these minute stomata might occur, have not been satisfactorally resolved. Thus, our hypothesis, that the optimization of stomatal size for functional efficiency is a major ecological determinant of genome size, remains unproven.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)573-584
    Number of pages12
    JournalAnnals of Botany
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • Stomatal size
    • genome size
    • seed size
    • life history
    • photosynthesis
    • allometry
    • ecology
    • evolution
    • SLA
    • leaf structure
    • CAM
    • C-4
    • APG III


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