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Life‐history trade‐offs promote the evolution of dioecy

Dorken, Marcel E., Van Drunen, Wendy E.
Journal of evolutionary biology 2018 v.31 no.9 pp. 1405-1412
carbon, dioecy, evolutionarily stable strategy, females, hermaphroditism, indeterminate growth, life history, males, nitrogen, phenotype, resource allocation, sexual reproduction, unisexuality, vegetative growth
Most dioecious plants are perennial and subject to trade‐offs between sexual reproduction and vegetative performance. However, these broader life‐history trade‐offs have not usually been incorporated into theoretical analyses of the evolution of separate sexes. One such analysis has indicated that hermaphroditism is favoured over unisexuality when female and male sex functions involve the allocation of nonoverlapping types of resources to each sex function (e.g. allocations of carbon to female function vs. allocations of nitrogen to male function). However, some dioecious plants appear to conform to this pattern of resource allocation, with different resource types allocated to female vs. male sex functions. Using an evolutionarily stable strategy approach, we show that life‐history trade‐offs between sexual reproduction and vegetative performance enable the evolution of unisexual phenotypes even when there are no direct resource‐based trade‐offs between female and male sex functions. This result might help explain the preponderance of perennial life histories among dioecious plants and why many dioecious plants with annual life histories have indeterminate growth with ongoing trade‐offs between sexual reproduction and vegetative growth.