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Keywords:

  • Annual herb;
  • enantiostyly;
  • heteranthery;
  • microsatellites;
  • mixed mating;
  • outcrossing rate;
  • selfing

Abstract

Traditionally, annual colonising species are expected to have high rates of self-fertilisation, although recent theoretical and empirical studies have shown that cross-fertilisation can be selected for under heterogeneous pollination environments. Solanum rostratum is a self-compatible annual herb that colonises disturbed habitats. Despite the lack of physiological mechanisms to prevent self-fertilisation, pollen transfer between individuals is expected to be favoured because of its complex floral morphology. In previous studies of S. rostratum it has been shown that anther dimorphism within flowers results in precise pollen placement on the pollinator's body, and the presence of mirror-image floral morphs within plants promotes outcrossing in experimental arrays. However, the mating system of natural populations of S. rostratum has never been assessed, and thus whether it is predominantly selfing or outcrossing remains unknown. We hypothesise that floral and inflorescence morphology of S. rostratum should facilitate cross-fertilisation, making it a predominantly outcrossing despite its lack of a self-incompatibility system. To test this hypothesis, we estimated outcrossing rates by genotyping 700 individuals at 13 microsatellite loci, sampled from four populations across a 690-km transect in the species' native range. We found that populations had mean outcrossing rates of 0.70 ± 0.03, with multiple sires contributing to paternity of each progeny array (average effective number of sires = 8.97 ± 0.57). This indicates that natural populations S. rostratum have relatively high levels of outcrossing, probably facilitated by its floral and inflorescence morphology. We speculate that partial selfing in this species may be an unavoidable consequence of displaying multiple flowers at the same time (geitonogamy), as well as the result of self-pollen transfer by illegitimate visitors.