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Resources and pollinators contribute to population sex-ratio bias and pollen limitation in Fragaria virginiana (Rosaceae)


  • Andrea L. Case,

  • Tia-Lynn Ashman

A. L. Case ( and T-L. Ashman, Dept of Biological Sciences, Kent State Univ., Kent, OH 44242, USA and Dept of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Populations of gynodioecious species vary in the ratio of female versus hermaphroditic individuals they contain, and many exhibit higher frequencies of females under poor resource conditions. One important factor limiting female frequencies within populations is predicted to be pollen limitation of seed production, caused by either low abundance of pollen donors or insufficient pollen transfer. However, empirical studies measuring variation in pollen limitation with population sex ratios or resource gradients in gynodioecious plants are inconsistent. Part of this inconsistency may be that pollen limitation and its causes are context-dependent. Another possibility is that sex-specific daily flower production and/or sex-biased visitation are more relevant to the likelihood of pollen limitation than sex ratio based on counting individual plants. In this study, we examined context-dependent pollen limitation in gynodioecious/subdioecious Fragaria virginiana. We specifically examined the potential for resource availability to influence sex-specific daily flower production, sex-biased pollinator visitation, and their relationships with pollen limitation in experimental populations that contained either high or low frequencies of female plants. High resource availability reduced apparent female frequency by increasing daily flower production by hermaphrodites relative to females. This is important because pollinators increasingly discriminated against female flowers as floral sex ratios became more female-biased. Contrary to expectation, females in high-female populations were not consistently more pollen limited than those in low-female populations. The level of pollen limitation of females was better explained by sex–biased pollinator foraging and visitation frequency than by the plant sex ratio or floral sex ratio. Thus, negative frequency dependence of female pollen limitation was evident only considering sex ratio bias mediated by pollinator visitation.