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TESTING MODELS OF SEX RATIO EVOLUTION IN A GYNODIOECIOUS PLANT: FEMALE FREQUENCY COVARIES WITH THE COST OF MALE FERTILITY RESTORATION

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Abstract

In many gynodioecious species, cytoplasmic male sterility genes (CMS) and nuclear male fertility restorers (Rf) jointly determine whether a plant is female or hermaphrodite. Equilibrium models of cytonuclear gynodioecy, which describe the effect of natural selection within populations on the sex ratio, predict that the frequency of females in a population will primarily depend on the cost of male fertility restoration, a negative pleiotropic effect of Rf alleles on hermaphrodite fitness. Specifically, when the cost of restoration is higher, the frequency of females at equilibrium is predicted to be higher. To test this prediction, we estimated variation in the cost of restoration across 26 populations of Lobelia siphilitica, a species in which Rf alleles can have negative pleiotropic effects on pollen viability. We found that L. siphilitica populations with many females were more likely to contain hermaphrodites with low pollen viability. This is consistent with the prediction that the cost of restoration is a key determinant of variation in female frequency. Our results suggest that equilibrium models can explain variation in sex ratio among natural populations of gynodioecious species.

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