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How to be an attractive male: floral dimorphism and attractiveness to pollinators in a dioecious plant


Waelti, M O; Page, P A; Widmer, A; Schiestl, F P (2009). How to be an attractive male: floral dimorphism and attractiveness to pollinators in a dioecious plant. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 9:190.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Sexual selection theory predicts that males are limited in their reproductive success by access to mates, whereas females are more limited by resources. In animal-pollinated plants, attraction of pollinators and successful pollination is crucial for reproductive success. In dioecious plant species, males should thus be selected to increase their attractiveness to pollinators by investing more than females in floral traits that enhance pollinator visitation. We tested the prediction of higher attractiveness of male flowers in the dioecious, moth-pollinated herb Silene latifolia, by investigating floral signals (floral display and fragrance) and conducting behavioral experiments with the pollinator-moth, Hadena bicruris. RESULTS: As found in previous studies, male plants produced more but smaller flowers. Male flowers, however, emitted significantly larger amounts of scent than female flowers, especially of the pollinator-attracting compounds. In behavioral tests we showed that naïve pollinator-moths preferred male over female flowers, but this preference was only significant for male moths. CONCLUSION: Our data suggest the evolution of dimorphic floral signals is shaped by sexual selection and pollinator preferences, causing sexual conflict in both plants and pollinators.

BACKGROUND: Sexual selection theory predicts that males are limited in their reproductive success by access to mates, whereas females are more limited by resources. In animal-pollinated plants, attraction of pollinators and successful pollination is crucial for reproductive success. In dioecious plant species, males should thus be selected to increase their attractiveness to pollinators by investing more than females in floral traits that enhance pollinator visitation. We tested the prediction of higher attractiveness of male flowers in the dioecious, moth-pollinated herb Silene latifolia, by investigating floral signals (floral display and fragrance) and conducting behavioral experiments with the pollinator-moth, Hadena bicruris. RESULTS: As found in previous studies, male plants produced more but smaller flowers. Male flowers, however, emitted significantly larger amounts of scent than female flowers, especially of the pollinator-attracting compounds. In behavioral tests we showed that naïve pollinator-moths preferred male over female flowers, but this preference was only significant for male moths. CONCLUSION: Our data suggest the evolution of dimorphic floral signals is shaped by sexual selection and pollinator preferences, causing sexual conflict in both plants and pollinators.

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19 citations in Web of Science®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Systematic Botany and Botanical Gardens
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:15 Jan 2010 11:45
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:43
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1471-2148
Publisher DOI:10.1186/1471-2148-9-190
PubMed ID:19660122
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-26859

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