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Keywords:

  • Arbuscular mycorrhizas;
  • gynodioecy;
  • mutualism;
  • sex-specific interactions;
  • sexual polymorphism;
  • species-specific interactions

Abstract

In several gynodioecious species, intermediate sex between female and hermaphrodite has been reported, but few studies have investigated fitness parameters of this intermediate phenotype. Here, we examined the interactions between plant sex and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal species affecting the reproductive output of Geranium sylvaticum, a sexually polymorphic plant species with frequent intermediate sexes between females and hermaphrodites, using a common garden experiment. Flowering phenology, AM colonisation levels and several plant vegetative and reproductive parameters, including seed and pollen production, were measured. Differences among sexes were detected in flowering, fruit set, pollen production and floral size. The two AM species used in the present work had different effects on plant fitness parameters. One AM species increased female fitness through increasing seed number and seed mass, while the other species reduced seed mass in all sexes investigated. AM fungi did not affect intermediate and hermaphrodite pollen content in anthers. The three sexes in G. sylvaticum did not differ in their reproductive output in terms of total seed production, but hermaphrodites had potentially larger fathering ability than intermediates due to higher anther number. The ultimate female function – seed production – did not differ among the sexes, but one of the AM fungi used potentially decreased host plant fitness. In addition, in the intermediate sex, mycorrhizal symbiosis functioned similarly in females as in hermaphrodites.