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Heredity (Edinb). 2006 Jan;96(1):45-52.

Male sterility in triploid dandelions: asexual females vs. asexual hermaphrodites.

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Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Kruislaan 318, 1098 SM, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Male reproductive output, pollen in plants and sperm in animals has been shown to constitute a substantial cost for many organisms. In parthenogenetic hermaphrodites, selection is therefore expected to reduce the allocation of resources to male reproductive output. However, sustained production of pollen or sperm has been observed in numerous asexual hermaphrodites. We studied the widespread production of pollen by triploid asexual dandelions, Taraxacum sect. Ruderalia, comparing rare male sterile individuals with pollen producing asexuals. We found that individuals can show plasticity in the production of pollen, but that it is nevertheless possible to distinguish between (facultatively) male sterile asexuals and male fertile asexuals. Based on evidence from genetic markers and crosses, we conclude that the male sterility in asexual dandelions is caused by nuclear genes, in contrast to the cytoplasmically inherited male sterility previously found in sexual dandelions. Male sterile lineages did not produce more seeds per flower head, heavier seeds or seeds that were more viable. However, male sterile plants did produce more seed heads and hence more seeds than pollen producing ones, indicating that they were able to reallocate resources toward seed production. Considering the difference in seed production, it remains puzzling that not more asexual dandelions are male sterile.

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