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22001199 CARIBBEAN NATURALIST No. 5N7o:1. –567
Pouteria macrocarpa (Mart.) Dietrich (Sapotaceae) Drift
Seed from the Little Cayman Island, Caribbean Sea
Declan T.G. Quigley*
Abstract - I describe and illustrate a Pouteria macrocarpa drift seed, which was
discovered stranded on Little Cayman Island. The specimen is the first known
record of a P. macrocarpa drift seed from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico
region. Herein, I also review previous records of Pouteria drift seeds from the
northwestern and northeastern Atlantic.
Between 2008 and 2012, Judie Clee discovered a drift seed of Pouteria macrocarpa
(Mart.) Dietrich stranded on the Little Cayman Island (19.68oN, 80.03oW) in
the Caribbean Sea and deposited the specimen in the Bermuda Museum of Natural
History, Flatts, Bermuda, where it was photographed by Lisa Green (Bermuda Museum
of Natural History; Figs. 1–3).
The seed, measuring ~50 mm in length and ~25 mm in width (hilum ~20 mm
in length and 5 mm in width), fits closely with P. macrocarpa seeds described by
Van Roosmalen and Garcia (2000:272) as “globose or plano-convex measuring 27
x 20 x 18–50 mm in length, testa smooth, reduced to a narrow abaxial strip, testa
*Dingle Oceanworld (Mara Beo Teo), Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland;
Manuscript Editor: Noris Salazar
Figure 1. Seed of Pouteria macrocarpa from the Little Cayman Island, back view. Scale is
in centimeters. Photograph by Lisa Green.
2019 No. 57
woody, scar (hilum) covering most of the seed surface, rough, dull brown”. Dr.
Anderson Alves Araújo (Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Brazil) confirmed
the identity of the specimen by comparing the photographs with a type specimen of
P. macrocarpa (deposited at the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de
Figure 2. Seed of Pouteria macrocarpa, front view showing the hilum region. Scale is in
centimeters. Photograph by Lisa Green.
Figure 3. Seed of Pouteria macrocarpa, apex view. Photograph by Lisa Green.
2019 No. 57
P. macrocarpa has a disjunct geographic distribution in Central and South
America, including Costa Rica, Columbia, and Brazil (Amazonas, Para, Roraima,
Bahia, and Espírito Santo), where it is colloquially known as Abiu-grande or
Abiurana. It is a relatively large tree, reaching up to 30 m in height and 65 cm in
diameter, with a fluted bole. The species is generally found in lowland Amazonian
and Atlantic rainforests but has also been recorded, albeit on only 1 occasion, at an
altitude of 1800 m in Columbia (Mônico et al. 2017, Van Roosmalen and Garcia
2000). Although the status of P. macrocarpa is currently regarded as vulnerable
under IUCN Red List criteria (IUCN 2015), Mônico et al. (2017) suggested that the
species is apparently rare and should actually be considered as endangered under
The only species of Pouteria known to be established on the Cayman Islands
is P. campechiana Baehni (Canistel), a naturalized species, originally introduced
by humans (Brunt and Davies 1994, Proctor 2012). The current specimen would
therefore appear to represent the first known record from the Little Cayman Island,
and indeed elsewhere throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, of a drift
seed of P. macrocarpa.
Pouteria is a large genus of polymorphic flowering trees and large shrubs,
which is restricted to the Neotropics. Although up to 325 Pouteria species have
been described, the actual number of species within the genus is continually in a
state of taxonomic flux (Govaerts et al. 2001; Pennington 1990, 1991; Swenson
and Anderberg 2005; Triono et al. 2007). About 200 species of Pouteria have been
described throughout the Neotropics, including South and Central America and the
West Indies (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong 2016, Alves-Araújo and Alves 2013,
Alves-Araújo and Mônico 2017, Alves-Araújo et al. 2014, Cornejo and Janovec
2010, Mônico et al. 2017, Morales 2012, Popovkin et al. 2016, Roosmalen and
Garcia 2000, Sobral and Stehmann 2009). Many Pouteria species are of economic
importance, producing high-quality timber and edible fruit, as well as remedies in
folk medicine (FAO 1987, Silva et al. 2008).
Although Pouteria fruits and seeds are consumed and dispersed by terrestrial
animals (endochory), nothing is known about the possible long-term flotation
properties and subsequent viability of Pouteria seeds that enter fresh or salt water
(hydrochory). Gunn and Dennis (1999) suggested that the presence of an empty
space around the embryo would most likely facilitate buoyancy .
Northwest Atlantic Records of Pouteria Drift Seeds
Although many of the Neotropical Pouteria species occur within hydrographic
catchments draining into the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico (Lentz and Dickau
2005, Van Roosmalen 1985, Van Roosmalen and Garcia 2000), it is surprising that
only 2 species have been positively identified as maritime drift seeds throughout this
region: P. sapota (Jacq.) (Mamee Apple) and Canistel (Sullivan and Williams 2007,
2010; Sullivan et al. 2008). It is worth noting that both of these species are native to
Mexico (Arias et al. 2015) and have been widely introduced throughout the West
2019 No. 57
Indies and Florida (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong 2016, Martin and Malo 1978),
so these stranded seeds may have a more local origin. There are also unconfirmed
reports that P. domingensis (C.F. Gaertner) Baehni (Jacana), which is native to the
Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola, has become naturalized in southern Florida, USA
(Wunderlin and Whetstone 2016). Elsewhere, unspecified Pouteria drift seeds have
been reported from the Atlantic beaches of Florida, USA (Katz 1995, Mitchell 2005).
Gunn and Dennis (1999) noted that the larger drift seeds appeared to be Mamee Apple,
while the smaller ones probably represented 1 or more species.
Northeast Atlantic Records of Pouteria Drift Seeds
Pouteria drift seeds have rarely been recorded from northeastern European
waters. Guppy (1917) collected 2 Pouteria seeds near Salcombe, South Devon,
UK, during May 1911. Gunn and Dennis (1999) suggested that the seeds were
most likely Mamee Apple. However, Nelson (2000) noted that Guppy (1917) had
compared the seeds with specimens of Mamee Apple in Kew Gardens, and was
still unable to identify them to species level. Gunn and Dennis (1999) also suggested
that 2 Trieghemella heckelii (A. Chev) Pierre ex Dubard (Cherry Mahogany)
seeds, which were found at Rosscarbery, County Cork, Ireland, during April 1965,
were probably Mamee Apple. However, Nelson (2000) subsequently examined the
specimens, which are housed in the collections of the National Herbarium in Dublin
(DBN 19:1977), and confirmed their identity as Cherry Mahogany. During 2004,
Cadée and Mol (2004) recorded 2 unidentified Pouteria drift seeds from the North
Sea coast on the Frisian Island of Texel, Netherlands. Although all of the northwestern
European Pouteria specimens were considered to have been locally discarded
rather than true peregrine drifters, it is possible that some of these seeds could have
originated in the Neotropical Western Atlantic and drifted across the North Atlantic
via the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift.
I am grateful to Lisa Green (Bermuda Museum of Natural History) for bringing the
current specimen to my attention and for her permission to publish the photographs, and
to Anderson Alves Araújo (Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Brazil) for confirming
the identification. I also thank Ed Perry (Melbourne Beach, FL, USA) and Mark Van
Roosmalen (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia – INPA, Manaus, Brazil) for
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