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Elevation-related variation in the population characteristics of distylous Primula nivalis affects female fitness and inbreeding depression

Abdusalam, Aysajan, Li, Qing Jun
Plant diversity 2019 v.41 no.4 pp. 250-257
Primula, altitude, cross pollination, females, flowers, fruit set, inbreeding depression, mating systems, morphs, natural selection, open pollination, plant density, progeny, seed weight, seeds, selection pressure, self-pollination, viability
The population characteristics of distylous species are highly sensitive to stochastic natural selection pressure. Therefore, populations growing under different environmental conditions may vary in floral morph ratios, potentially affecting female fitness and leading to inbreeding depression. However, the variation in offspring quality among populations as a result of inbreeding depression is poorly understood in distylous species. This study investigates variations in plant density, seed mass, seed viability, female fitness, and post-dispersal inbreeding depression in both sexual morphs (long-styled and short-styled plants) of the distylous Primula nivalis that were subjected to different pollination treatments along an elevational gradient from 1657 to 2704 m a.s.l. Population characteristics (morph plant density and ratio) and fruit set were significantly affected by sexual morph and elevation. Plant density and fruit set frequencies were lower for short-styled than for long-styled plants at 2704 m a.s.l. The seeds from the cross-pollinated flowers of both morphs were higher in quality than those of self-pollinated flowers. The female fitness of seeds from cross-pollinated flowers of both morphs was higher than that of seeds from open-pollinated and self-pollinated flowers. The female fitness of seeds from long-styled flowers was higher than that of seeds from short-styled flowers at all elevations. Inbreeding depression increased with elevation among plants with short-styled flowers but not among those with long-styled flowers. Variation in the elevation-dependent mating system might influence female fitness and affect inbreeding depression in both floral morphs. In conclusion, the low quality of seeds from short-styled flowers at high elevations might decrease short-styled flower frequency, affecting population characteristics.