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Proc Biol Sci. 2002 Dec 22;269(1509):2565-71.

Pollen competition as a unilateral reproductive barrier between sympatric diploid and tetraploid Chamerion angustifolium.

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  • 1Department of Botany, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.


Speciation requires the evolution of barriers to gene exchange between descendant and progenitor populations. Cryptic reproductive barriers in plants arise after pollination but before fertilization as a result of pollen competition and interactions between male gametophytes and female reproductive tissues. We tested for such gametic isolation between the polyploid Chamerion angustifolium and its diploid progenitor by conducting single (diploid or tetraploid) and mixed ploidy (1 : 1 diploid and tetraploid) pollinations on both cytotypes and inferring siring success from paternity analysis and pollen-tube counts. In mixed pollinations, polyploids sired most (79%) of their own seeds as well as those of diploids (61%) (correcting for triploid block, siring success was 70% and 83%, respectively). In single donor pollinations, pollen tubes from tetraploids were more numerous than those from diploids at four different positions in each style and for both diploid and tetraploid pollen recipients. The lack of a pollen donor x recipient interaction indicates that the tetraploid siring advantage is a result of pollen competition rather than pollen-pistil interactions. Such unilateral pollen precedence results in an asymmetrical pattern of isolation, with tetraploids experiencing less gene flow than diploids. It also enhances tetraploid establishment in sympatric populations, by maximizing tetraploid success and simultaneously diminishing that of diploids through the production of inviable triploid offspring.

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