Sex ratio and subdioecy in Fragaria virginiana: the roles of plasticity and gene flow examined


Author for correspondence:
Tia-Lynn Ashman
Tel: +1 412 624 0984


  • Here we examined the roles of sex-differential plasticity (SDP) and gene flow in sex ratio evolution of subdioecious Fragaria virginiana.
  • We assessed whether female frequency varied with resource availability in 17 natural populations and then characterized plasticity and mean investment in allocation to female function at flower and plant levels in the sex morphs in the glasshouse. We estimated patterns of population divergence using five microsatellite markers.
  • We reveal SDP in fruit production substantial enough to translate into a higher equilibrium female frequency at low resources. Thus SDP can account, in part, for the strong negative relationship between female frequency and resources found in the field. Pollen-bearing morphs varied in plasticity across populations, and the degree of plasticity in fruit number was positively correlated with in situ variation in nitrogen (N) availability, suggesting an adaptive component to sex-allocation plasticity. Low neutral genetic differentiation, indicating high gene flow or recent divergence, may contribute to the absence of population differentiation in fruit-setting ability of pollen-bearing morphs despite considerable sex ratio variation.
  • We consider how these processes, in addition to other features of this system, may work in concert to influence sex ratios and to hinder the evolution of dioecy in F. virginiana.