Journal Article

Parthenocarpy and Seed Predation by Insects in <i>Bursera morelensis</i>

María F. Ramos-Ordoñez, Judith Márquez-Guzmán and Ma. Del Coro Arizmendi

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 5, pages 713-722
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Parthenocarpy and Seed Predation by Insects in Bursera morelensis

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

While parthenocarpy (meaning the production of fruits without seeds) may limit fecundity in many plants, its function is not clear; it has been proposed, however, that it might be associated with a strategy to avoid seed predation. Bursera morelensis is a dioecious endemic plant that produces fruits with and without seeds, and its fruits are parasitized by insects. Its reproductive system is not well described and no published evidence of parthenocarpy exists for the species. The purpose of this work was to describe the breeding system of B. morelensis and its relationship to seed predation by insects.


The breeding system was described using pollination experiments, verifying the presence of parthenocarpic fruits and apomictic seeds. Reproductive structures from flower buds to mature fruits were quantified. For fruits, an anatomical and histological characterization was made. The number of fruits in which seeds had been predated by insects was correlated with parthenocarpic fruit production.

Key Results

The major abortion of reproductive structures occurred during fruit set. The results discard the formation of apomictic seeds. Flowers that were not pollinated formed parthenocarpic fruits and these could be distinguished during early developmental stages. In parthenocarpic fruits in the first stages of development, an unusual spread of internal walls of the ovary occurred invading the locule and preventing ovule development. Unlike fruits with seeds, parthenocarpic fruits do not have calcium oxalate crystals in the ovary wall. Both fruit types can be separated in the field at fruit maturity by the presence of dehiscence, complete in seeded and partial in parthenocarpic fruits. Trees with more parthenocarpic fruits had more parasitized fruits.


This is the first time the anatomy of parthenocarpic fruits in Burseraceae has been described. Parthenocarpic fruits in B. morelensis might function as a deceit strategy for insect seed predators as they are unprotected both chemically and mechanically by the absence of calcium oxalate crystals.

Keywords: Parthenocarpy; Bursera morelensis; predation; seeds; insects; breeding system; calcium oxalate crystals

Journal Article.  6290 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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