Plants that use fog as an important water-source frequently have a rosette growth habit. The performance of this morphology in relation to fog interception has not been studied. Some first-principles from physics predict that narrow leaves, together with other ancillary traits (large number and high flexibility of leaves, caudices, and/or epiphytism) which constitute the “narrow-leaf syndrome” should increase fog-interception efficiency. This was tested using aluminum models of rosettes that differed in leaf length, width and number and were exposed to artificial fog. The results were validated using seven species of Tillandsia and four species of xerophytic rosettes. The total amount of fog intercepted in rosette plants increased with total leaf area, while narrow leaves maximized interception efficiency (measured as interception per unit area). The number of leaves in the rosettes is physically constrained because wide-leafed plants can only have a few blades. At the limits of this constraint, net fog interception was independent of leaf form, but interception efficiency was maximized by large numbers of narrow leaves. Atmospheric Tillandsia species show the narrow-leaf syndrome. Their fog interception efficiencies were correlated to the ones predicted from aluminum-model data. In the larger xerophytic rosette species, the interception efficiency was greatest in plants showing the narrow-leaf syndrome. The adaptation to fog-harvesting in several narrow-leaved rosettes was tested for evolutionary convergence in 30 xerophytic rosette species using a comparative method. There was a significant evolutionary tendency towards the development of the narrow-leaf syndrome the closer the species grew to areas where fog is frequently available. This study establishes convergence in a very wide group of plants encompassing genera as contrasting as Tillandsia and Agave as a result of their dependence on fog.
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We are grateful to Drs. M. Franco, A. Flores, L.E. Eguiarte, F. Molina, C. Montaña, P. Ramsey, A. Zavala and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the early versions of the manuscript. Edward Peters and Andrea Martínez helped in the design of the aluminum models and in the fog simulations. Pavka Patiño assisted us with the analysis of plant morphology through photographs. The Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) supported the first author with a PhD scholarship.
Communicated by Todd Dawson.
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Martorell, C., Ezcurra, E. The narrow-leaf syndrome: a functional and evolutionary approach to the form of fog-harvesting rosette plants. Oecologia 151, 561–573 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-006-0614-x