Journal Article

Function and evolution of sterile sex organs in cryptically dioecious <i>Petasites tricholobus</i> (Asteraceae)

Qian Yu, Deng-Xiu Li, Wei Luo and You-Hao Guo

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 108, issue 1, pages 65-71
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online May 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr105
Function and evolution of sterile sex organs in cryptically dioecious Petasites tricholobus (Asteraceae)

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Background and Aims

Why are sterile anthers and carpels retained in some flowering plants, given their likely costs? To address this question, a cryptically dioecious species, Petasites tricholobus, in which male and female plants each have two floret types that appear pistillate and hermaphroditic, was studied. The aim was to understand the function of sterile hermaphroditic florets in females. In addition, the first examination of functions of sterile female structures in male plants was conducted in the hermaphroditic florets on males of this species. These female structures are exceptionally large in this species despite being sterile.

Methods

Differences in floret morphology between the sex morphs were documented and the possible functions of sterile sex organs investigated using manipulative experiments. Tests were carried out to find out if sterile female structures in male florets attract pollinators and if they aid in pollen dispersal, also to find out if the presence and quantity of sterile hermaphroditic florets in females increase pollinator attraction and reproductive success. To investigate what floret types provide nectar, all types of florets were examined under a scanning electron microscope to search for nectaries.

Key Results

The sterile female structures in male florets did not increase pollinator visits but were essential to secondary pollen presentation, which significantly enhanced pollen dispersal. Sterile pistillate florets on male plants did not contribute to floral display and disappeared in nearly half of the male plants. The sterile hermaphroditic florets on female plants attracted pollinators by producing nectar and enhanced seed production.

Conclusions

The presence of female structures in male florets and hermaphroditic florets on female plants is adaptive despite being sterile, and may be evolutionarily stable. However, the pistillate florets on male plants appear non-adaptive and are presumably in decline. Differential fates of the sterile sex organs in the species are determined by both the historical constraints and the ecological functions.

Keywords: Cryptic dioecy; sterile sex organ; secondary pollen presentation; pollinator attraction; breeding system evolution; ecological function; Petasites tricholobus

Journal Article.  4811 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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