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Sex allocation in gynodioecious Cyananthus delavayi differs between gender morphs and soil quality

Chen, Jianguo, Niu, Yang, Li, Zhimin, Yang, Yang, Sun, Hang
Plant reproduction 2017 v.30 no.2 pp. 107-117
biomass, females, flowers, fruit set, gynodioecy, hermaphroditism, morphs, nitrogen, organic matter, ovules, phosphorus, pistil, pollen, pollinators, potassium, prediction, reproductive performance, reproductive success, seeds, sex allocation, soil, soil nutrients, soil quality
KEY MESSAGE : Sex allocation in Cyananthus delavayi. Gynodioecy, where females and hermaphrodites coexist in the same natural population, is particularly suitable for predicting the ecological pressures that drive the stability of gender polymorphism. Since females have a disadvantage in that they only contribute to the next generation via ovules, they should gain an advantage via other means, of which resource allocation is an important component. Thus, to study their sex allocation is very helpful to understand how the dimorphic sexual system is maintained in natural systems. We studied the sex allocation patterns and reproductive output of the gynodioecious Cyananthus delavayi in three populations with different soil qualities (organic matter, N, P and K). The hermaphroditic flowers and pistils were much larger than those of female individuals. Although both gender morphs invested similar biomass in the pistils, females allocated more of their resource pool to the seed production, while hermaphrodites allocated more to pollinator advertisement. The pollen production of hermaphrodites did not differ between populations, suggesting that pollen production by hermaphrodites was not limited by soil nutrients. Fruit set of females, but not hermaphrodites, decreased with declining soil quality, whereas seeds per fruit of both females and hermaphrodites were highest in poor soils. Overall, this study shows that females achieve greater reproductive success by allocating more of their resource pool to enhancing seed production, which should favor their presence in gynodioecious populations. The hermaphrodites achieve reproductive success from both pollen and seed production, and unnecessarily reduce their allocation to pollen production. Soil quality should explain, at least partially, the sexual allocation patterns. Furthermore, some of our findings contradict previous hypotheses, thus adding a new example to the body of research on plant sex allocation and the development of future theories.