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Am Nat. 2005 Aug;166(2):169-83. Epub 2005 Jun 8.

Plant population dynamics, pollinator foraging, and the selection of self-fertilization.

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School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA.


Many flowering plants rely on pollinators, self-fertilization, or both for reproduction. We model the consequences of these features for plant population dynamics and mating system evolution. Our mating systems-based population dynamics model includes an Allee effect. This often leads to an extinction threshold, defined as a density below which population densities decrease. Reliance on generalist pollinators who primarily visit higher density plant species increases the extinction threshold, whereas autonomous modes of selfing decrease and can eliminate the threshold. Generalist pollinators visiting higher density plant species coupled with autonomous selfing may introduce an effect where populations decreasing in density below the extinction threshold may nonetheless persist through selfing. The extinction threshold and selfing at low density result in populations where individuals adopting a single reproductive strategy exhibit mating systems that depend on population density. The ecological and evolutionary analyses provide a mechanism where prior selfing evolves even though inbreeding depression is greater than one-half. Simultaneous consideration of ecological and evolutionary dynamics confirms unusual features (e.g., evolution into extinction or abrupt increases in population density) implicit in our separate consideration of ecological and evolutionary scenarios. Our analysis has consequences for understanding pollen limitation, reproductive assurance, and the evolution of mating systems.

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