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Am J Bot. 1997 Aug;84(8):1092.

Nutrient sensitivity of the cost of male function in gynodioecious Phacelia linearis (Hydrophyllaceae).


Allocation trade-offs should be measured as opportunity costs, estimating what individuals sacrifice in one function by allocating to others. We investigated opportunity costs of male function in gynodioecious Phacelia linearis, asking whether nutrient limitation contributes to them. This hypothesis predicts that hermaphrodites experience greater nutrient stress than females, and that hermaphrodite disadvantages in production might decrease with nutrient supply. We cultivated hermaphrodites and females at two nutrient levels, scoring individuals for prereproductive leaf number at 5 wk, and biomass, nitrogen concentration, and fruit and seed production at 16 wk. Nutrient treatments caused final growth differences of two orders of magnitude. No gender difference appeared at 5 wk, but at 16 wk hermaphrodites produced less stem, leaf, and inflorescence biomass than females, and made fewer fruits. Hermaphrodites' shoot-size disadvantage was marginally significantly more severe at low nutrients than high nutrients. Significant gender x nutrient interactions for root fraction and whole-plant nitrogen concentration indicate greater nutrient stress in hermaphrodites than females. Hermaphrodites also acquired less total nitrogen than females. Nutrient limitation contributes to opportunity costs of male function, but there must be other contributors. Possibilities include limitations in other resources, gender effects on morphology, and genetic trade-offs not directly involving allocation or morphology.

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