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Keywords:

  • Arms race;
  • floral longevity;
  • pollen competition;
  • pollination;
  • protandry;
  • receptivity

Abstract In flowering plants, the onset and duration of female receptivity vary among species. In several species the receptive structures wilt upon pollination. Here we explore the hypothesis that postpollination wilting may be influenced by pollen and serve as a general means to secure paternity of the pollen donor at the expense of female fitness. Taking a game-theoretical approach, we examine the potential for the evolution of a pollen-borne wilting substance, and for the coevolution of a defense strategy by the recipient plant. The model without defense predicts an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) for the production of wilting substance. The ESS value is highest when pollinator visiting rates are intermediate and when the probability that pollen from several donors arrives at the same time is low. This finding has general implications in that it shows that male traits to secure paternity also can evolve in species, such as plants, where mating is not strictly sequential. We further model coevolution of the wilting substance with the timing of stigma receptivity. We assume that pollen-receiving plants can reduce the costs induced by toxic pollen by delaying the onset of stigmatic receptivity. The model predicts a joint ESS, but no female counter-adaptation when the wilting substance is highly toxic. This indicates that toxicity affects the probability that a male manipulative trait stays beneficial (i.e., not countered by female defense) over evolutionary time. We discuss parallels to male induced changes in female receptivity known to occur in animals and the role of harm for the evolution of male manipulative adaptations.