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Evolution. 2004 Dec;58(12):2613-21.

Allee effect and self-fertilization in hermaphrodites: reproductive assurance in demographically stable populations.

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  • 1UMR 5175, Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de La Recherche Scientifique, 1919 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier Cedex 05, France.


The fact that selfing increases seed set (reproductive assurance) has often been put forward as an important selective force for the evolution of selfing. However, the role of reproductive assurance in hermaphroditic populations is far from being clear because of a lack of theoretical work. Here, I propose a theoretical model that analyzes self-fertilization in the presence of reproductive assurance. Because reproductive assurance directly influences the per capita growth rate, I developed an explicit demographic model for partial selfers in the presence of reproductive assurance, specifically when outcrossing is limited by the possibility of pollen transfer (Allee effect). Mating system parameters are derived as a function of the underlying demographical parameters. The functional link between population demography and mating system parameters (reproductive assurance, selfing rate) can be characterized. The demographic model permits the analysis of the evolution of self-fertilization in stable populations when reproductive assurance occurs. The model reveals some counterintuitive results such as the fact that increasing the fraction of selfed ovules can, in certain circumstances, increase the fraction of outcrossed ovules. Moreover, I demonstrate that reproductive assurance per se cannot account for the evolution of stable mixed selfing rates. Also, the model reveals that the extinction of outcrossing populations depends on small changes in population density (ecological perturbations), while the transition from outcrossing to selfing can, in certain cases, lead the population to extinction (evolutionary suicide). More generally, this paper highlights the fact that self-fertilization affects both the dynamics of individuals and the dynamics of selfing genes in hermaphroditic populations.

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