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Ann Bot. 2011 May;107(6):1039-45. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcr046. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

Sexual dimorphism in a dioecious population of the wind-pollinated herb Mercurialis annua: the interactive effects of resource availability and competition.

Author information

1
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK. e.hesse@biology.leidenuniv.nl

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND AIMS:

Male-biased sex allocation commonly occurs in wind-pollinated hermaphroditic plants, and is often positively associated with size, notably in terms of height. Currently, it is not well established whether a corresponding pattern holds for dioecious plants: do males of wind-pollinated species exhibit greater reproductive allocation than females? Here, sexual dimorphism is investigated in terms of life history trade-offs in a dioecious population of the wind-pollinated ruderal herb Mercurialis annua.

METHODS:

The allocation strategies of males and females grown under different soil nutrient availability and competitive (i.e. no, male or female competitor) regimes were compared.

KEY RESULTS:

Male reproductive allocation increased disproportionately with biomass, and was greater than that of females when grown in rich soils. Sexual morphs differentially adjusted their reproductive allocation in response to local environmental conditions. In particular, males reduced their reproductive allocation in poor soils, whereas females increased theirs, especially when competing with another female rather than growing alone. Finally, males displayed smaller above-ground vegetative sizes than females, but neither nutrient availability nor competition had a strong independent effect on relative size disparities between the sexes.

CONCLUSIONS:

Selection appears to favour plasticity in reproductive allocation in dioecious M. annua, thereby maintaining a relatively constant size hierarchy between sexual morphs. In common with other dioecious species, there seems to be little divergence in the niches occupied by males and females of M. annua.

PMID:
21385775
PMCID:
PMC3080628
DOI:
10.1093/aob/mcr046
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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