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Keywords:

  • disassortative mating;
  • female fertilty;
  • mating system;
  • plant sexual polymorphism;
  • self-sterility;
  • stigma-height dimorphism

Populations of the insect-pollinated geophytes Narcissus assoanus and N. dubius (Amaryllidaceae) are commonly dimorphic for stigma height. An extensive survey of populations of the two species in SW France revealed a wide range of style-morph frequencies, particularly populations with significantly more long-styled than short-styled plants. Here we employ experimental and theoretical approaches to investigate potential selective mechanisms governing the variation in style-morph frequencies. Controlled pollination of both species demonstrated that N. assoanus is moderately self-sterile whereas N. dubius is highly self-compatible. Both intra- and intermorph crosses of N. assoanus were equally fertile, indicating that the species does not exhibit heteromorphic incompatibility. Estimates of female fertility (fruit- and seed-set) and multilocus estimates of outcrossing using allozyme markers provided no evidence of morph-specific differences in maternal components of reproductive success in natural populations of the two species. This result suggested that differences between the morphs in male fertility may be largely responsible for the observed morph-ratio variation. To investigate this hypothesis we developed a mating model that incorporates the genetics of stigma-height dimorphism and contrasting rates of assortative and disassortative mating in the style morphs. Simulation results demonstrated that stigma-height dimorphism will always be maintained when levels of disassortative mating are greater than assortative mating, and that the observed L-biased populations in Narcissus spp. probably result from greater levels of assortative mating in this morph in comparison with the S-morph.