Journal Article

The relative importance of reproductive assurance and automatic selection as hypotheses for the evolution of self-fertilization

Jeremiah W. Busch and Lynda F. Delph

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 3, pages 553-562
Published in print February 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcr219
The relative importance of reproductive assurance and automatic selection as hypotheses for the evolution of self-fertilization

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background

The field of plant mating-system evolution has long been interested in understanding why selfing evolves from outcrossing. Many possible mechanisms drive this evolutionary trend, but most research has focused upon the transmission advantage of selfing and its ability to provide reproductive assurance when cross-pollination is uncertain. We discuss the shared conceptual framework of these ideas and their empirical support that is emerging from tests of their predictions over the last 25 years.

Scope

These two hypotheses are derived from the same strategic framework. The transmission advantage hypothesis involves purely gene-level selection, with reproductive assurance involving an added component of individual-level selection. Support for both of these ideas has been garnered from population-genetic tests of their predictions. Studies in natural populations often show that selfing increases seed production, but it is not clear if this benefit is sufficient to favour the evolution of selfing, and the ecological agents limiting outcross pollen are often not identified. Pollen discounting appears to be highly variable and important in systems where selfing involves multiple floral adaptations, yet seed discounting has rarely been investigated. Although reproductive assurance appears likely as a leading factor facilitating the evolution of selfing, studies must account for both seed and pollen discounting to adequately test this hypothesis.

Conclusions

The transmission advantage and reproductive assurance ideas describe components of gene transmission that favour selfing. Future work should move beyond their dichotomous presentation and focus upon understanding whether selection through pollen, seed or both explains the spread of selfing-rate modifiers in plant populations.

Keywords: Demography; inbreeding depression; mating systems; outcrossing; pollen discounting; pollination; seed discounting

Journal Article.  7585 words.  Illustrated.

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

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