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Am Nat. 2005 Oct;166 Suppl 4:S31-41.

Genetic correlations with floral display lead to sexual dimorphism in the cost of reproduction.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA.


In dioecious plants, females typically invest more biomass in reproduction than males and consequently experience stronger life-history trade-offs. Sexual dimorphism in life history runs counter to this pattern in Silene latifolia: females acquire less carbon and invest more biomass in reproduction, but males pay a higher cost of reproduction. The species is sexually dimorphic for many traits, especially flower number, with males producing many, small flowers compared to females. We tested whether the cost of reproduction is higher in males because flower number, which we presume to be under sexual selection in males, is genetically correlated with traits that would affect life-history trade-offs. We performed artificial selection to reduce the sexual dimorphism in flower size and looked at correlated responses in ecophysiological traits. We found significant correlated responses in total vegetative mass, leaf mass, leaf thickness, and measures of CO(2) exchange. Individuals in the many-and-small-flowered selection lines did not grow as large or invest as much biomass in leaves, and their leaves exhibited an up-regulated physiology that shortened leaf life span. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that genetic correlations between floral display and ecophysiological traits lead to a higher cost of reproduction for males.

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