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Seed size variability: from carob to carats


Turnbull, L A; Santamaria, L; Martorell, T; Rallo, J; Hector, A (2006). Seed size variability: from carob to carats. Biology Letters, 2(3):397-400.

Abstract

The seeds of various plants were used as weights because their mass reputedly varies so little. Carob (Ceratonia siliqua), which has given its name to the carat, is particularly famous in this regard. But are carob seeds unusually constant in weight and, if not, how did the myth arise? The variability of seeds sampled from a collection of carob trees (CV=23%) was close to the average of 63 species reviewed from the literature (CV=25%). However, in a perception experiment observers could discriminate differences in carob seed weight of around 5% by eye demonstrating the potential for humans to greatly reduce natural variation. Interestingly, the variability of pre-metrication carat weight standards is also around 5% suggesting that human rather than natural selection gave rise to the carob myth.

Abstract

The seeds of various plants were used as weights because their mass reputedly varies so little. Carob (Ceratonia siliqua), which has given its name to the carat, is particularly famous in this regard. But are carob seeds unusually constant in weight and, if not, how did the myth arise? The variability of seeds sampled from a collection of carob trees (CV=23%) was close to the average of 63 species reviewed from the literature (CV=25%). However, in a perception experiment observers could discriminate differences in carob seed weight of around 5% by eye demonstrating the potential for humans to greatly reduce natural variation. Interestingly, the variability of pre-metrication carat weight standards is also around 5% suggesting that human rather than natural selection gave rise to the carob myth.

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10 citations in Web of Science®
13 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:seed size, trait variability, carob, Ceratonia siliqua
Language:English
Date:2006
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:28
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:21
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:1744-9561
Additional Information:Free full text article
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2006.0476
Official URL:http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1686184&blobtype=pdf
PubMed ID:17148413

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