The effect of ecological factors on the mating system of a South American shrub species (Helicteres brevispira)


Edivani V. Franceschinelli E-mail:


Mating systems are influenced by several ecological factors, including plant density, number of flowers per plant, and pollinator movements. In this study, we investigated the simultaneous effects of these three factors on the mating system of a self-compatible Brazilian shrub species: Helicteres brevispira St. Hil. Outcrossing rate is directly correlated with plant density. Changes in the number of flowers per plant affect outcrossing rate through their effect on the density of flowers. Variation in foraging behaviour of hummingbird pollinators is a consequence of the interaction between plant density and number of flowers per plant. Territorialist pollinators are common in high density areas but visit few flowers on each plant, thereby promoting outcrossing. In areas of low plant density, trapliners and rare territorialists visit several flowers per plant, thus increasing selfing. Our results indicate that outcrossing rate is a dynamic parameter, with the extent of variation depending on a number of ecological factors. In successional species such as those in the genus Helicteres, demographic changes may be accompanied by alterations in mating system parameters, with concomitant effects on the genetic structure of populations.