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Am Nat. 2007 Sep;170(3):485-91. Epub 2007 Jul 16.

Animal dispersal dynamics promoting dioecy over hermaphroditism.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada.


Because of the separation of sexual function to male and female individuals, dioecious species have fewer pollen and seed bearers and thus experience disadvantages due to increased aggregation of reproductive function. Because of this disadvantage, models predict that dioecious females must have substantially more than twice the fecundity of hermaphrodites, yet empirical data suggest that female fecundity advantages are commonly much lower. Here, we incorporate animal foraging dynamics--and the heightened dispersal of seeds that may accompany increases in fecundity of dioecious females--into a spatially explicit mathematical model. We focus on the competition for germination sites with varying seed production, seed dispersal ability, and mortality, and we find that preferential foraging on dioecious females reduces the stringent fecundity requirements of dioecy to values in accordance with empirical estimates. This finding contributes to our understanding of the correlation between dioecy and fleshy fruits and highlights the importance of mutualist dispersers to dioecious species.

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