Journal Article

An angiosperm-wide analysis of the gynodioecy–dioecy pathway

M. Dufay, P. Champelovier, J. Käfer, J. P. Henry, S. Mousset and G. A. B. Marais

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Published in print August 2014 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2014 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
An angiosperm-wide analysis of the gynodioecy–dioecy pathway

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Background and Aims

About 6 % of an estimated total of 240 000 species of angiosperms are dioecious. The main precursors of this sexual system are thought to be monoecy and gynodioecy. A previous angiosperm-wide study revealed that many dioecious species have evolved through the monoecy pathway; some case studies and a large body of theoretical research also provide evidence in support of the gynodioecy pathway. If plants have evolved through the gynodioecy pathway, gynodioecious and dioecious species should co-occur in the same genera. However, to date, no large-scale analysis has been conducted to determine the prevalence of the gynodioecy pathway in angiosperms. In this study, this gap in knowledge was addressed by performing an angiosperm-wide survey in order to test for co-occurrence as evidence of the gynodioecy pathway.


Data from different sources were compiled to obtain (to our knowledge) the largest dataset on gynodioecy available, with 275 genera that include at least one gynodioecious species. This dataset was combined with a dioecy dataset from the literature, and a study was made of how often dioecious and gynodioecious species could be found in the same genera using a contingency table framework.

Key Results

It was found that, overall, angiosperm genera with both gynodioecious and dioecious species occur more frequently than expected, in agreement with the gynodioecy pathway. Importantly, this trend holds when studying different classes separately (or sub-classes, orders and families), suggesting that the gynodioecy pathway is not restricted to a few taxa but may instead be widespread in angiosperms.


This work complements that previously carried out on the monoecy pathway and suggests that gynodioecy is also a common pathway in angiosperms. The results also identify angiosperm families where some (or all) dioecious species may have evolved from gynodioecious precursors. These families could be the targets of future small-scale studies on transitions to dioecy taking phylogeny explicitly into account.

Keywords: Dioecy; gynodioecy; angiosperms; reproductive systems

Journal Article.  6673 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Reproduction and Propagation

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