Are sample sizes usually at least an order of magnitude too low for reliable estimates of leaf asymmetry?

M Mogie, M Cousins

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Estimates of leaf size and asymmetry for individual trees are often obtained using sample sizes that are too small to take into account the possibility that size and asymmetry may be affected by the position of the leaf on the tree. This issue was addressed by exploring variation in leaf size and asymmetry within an individual of Alder (Alnus glutinosa). We found differences between branches for leaf size and for signed asymmetry but not for unsigned asymmetry. We also found that the size of a leaf was not correlated with its position on a branch and that the asymmetry of a leaf was not correlated with either its position on a branch or with the asymmetry of its neighbour. Repeated subsampling of a sample of 870 leaves showed that a subsample size approaching 500 leaves was required for consistently reliable estimates of the standard deviation of unsigned asymmetry. Smaller subsamples were required for consistently reliable estimates of mean unsigned asymmetry and of the mean and standard deviation of leaf size, but subsamples of less than 100 leaves provided consistently reliable estimates only of mean leaf size. For this species, reliable estimates of an individual's level of asymmetry are obtained only if several hundred leaves are sampled over several branches, but it is not necessary to sample the same sequence of leaves from each branch. (C) 2001 Academic Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-185
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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