The costs of reproduction in plants


Author for correspondence: José Ramón Obeso Tel: +34 98 510 4789 Fax: +34 98 510 4866 Email:



  • Summary321

  • I.   Introduction321
  • II.     Theory on costs of reproduction322
  • III. Methodological aspects324
  • IV. Empirical evidence328
  • V. Plant size and costs of reproduction330
  • VI.  Costs of reproduction in sexually dimorphic plants331
  • VII. Compensation of the costs333
  • VIII. Concluding comments and future perspectives336
  • Acknowledgements337

  • References337


This review reports on the processes associated with costs of reproduction, including some theoretical considerations, definitions and methodological aspects, followed by a list of the situations where costs are difficult to find. Despite some exceptions, case studies, examined by trade-offs between reproduction and other life-history traits, generally support the predictions of the cost of reproduction hypothesis. The cost of reproduction as an evolutionary determinant of sexual dimorphism in life history traits in dioecious species was specifically tested, considering that the higher cost of reproduction in females has driven the life history traits related to sexual dimorphism. Females of woody dioecious species were consistently smaller than males supporting the costs of reproduction hypothesis. By contrast, females of herbaceous perennials were generally the larger sex, which did not fit the expectations of the hypothesis. Finally, the mechanisms that enable the compensation of the reproductive costs are detailed, including the plastic responses of photosynthesis and growth, the effects of the timing of investment, plant architecture and plant physiological integration.