Examining the support–supply and bud-packing hypotheses for the increase in toothed leaf margins in northern deciduous floras

Constantin M. Zohner, Elisabeth Ramm, Susanne S. Renner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Premise: The proportion of woody dicots with toothed leaves increases toward colder regions, a relationship used to reconstruct past mean annual temperatures. Recent hypotheses explaining this relationship are that (1) leaves in colder regions are thinner, requiring thick veins for support and water supply, with the resulting craspedodromous venation leading to marginal teeth (support–supply hypothesis) or that (2) teeth are associated with the packing of leaf primordia in winter buds (bud-packing hypothesis). Methods: We addressed these hypotheses by examining leaf thickness, number of primordia in buds, growing season length (mean annual temperature, MAT), and other traits in 151 deciduous woody species using georeferenced occurrences and a Bayesian model controlling for phylogeny. We excluded evergreen species because longer leaf life spans correlate with higher leaf mass per area, precluding the detection of independent effects of leaf thickness on leaf-margin type. Results: The best model predicted toothed leaves with 94% accuracy, with growing season length the strongest predictor. Neither leaf thickness nor number of leaves preformed in buds significantly influenced margin type, rejecting the support–supply and bud-packing hypotheses. Conclusions: A direct selective benefit of leaf teeth via a carbon gain early in the spring as proposed by Royer and Wilf (2006) would match the strong correlation between toothed species occurrence and short growing season found here using Bayesian hierarchical models. Efforts should be directed to physiological work quantifying seasonal photosynthate production in toothed and nontoothed leaves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1404-1411
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Bayesian models
  • leaf primordia
  • leaf teeth
  • leaf thickness
  • leaf venation
  • preformed leaves in winter buds


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