Combining population genetics and demographical approaches in evolutionary studies of plant mating systems


  • Pierre-Olivier Cheptou,

  • Daniel J. Schoen

P.-O. Cheptou1 (, UMR 5175 CEFE-Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CNRS), 1919 Route de Mende, FR-34293 Montpellier Cedex 05, France. – D. J. Schoen, Dept of Biology, McGill Univ., 1205, Dr. Penfield Avenue, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada.


The striking amount of variation in the mating systems of higher plants has stimulated fruitful research by both ecologists and population geneticists. Historically, these two schools of thought have developed independent theoretical treatments and empirical approaches to account for the evolution of such diversity. We highlight the approach adopted by each field. Population geneticists have developed an approach centred on gene properties of individuals and their role on the evolution of self-fertilisation (transmission rules and the deleterious role of mutations), while ecologists have mostly focused on demographic properties of self-fertilisation (seed production, colonisation ability of selfers). As a result, the two approaches sometimes use conflicting notions of fitness. The recent empirical advances on inbreeding depression, a topic typically motivated by population genetic questions, have emphasized the need to adopt a demographical perspective for fitness. In this paper, we suggest generalizing this approach in mating system evolution and we expect further improvements by integrating demographic and genetics perspectives.