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Regional variation in sex ratios and sex allocation in androdioecious Mercurialis annua.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
In androdioecious metapopulations, where males co-occur with hermaphrodites, the absence of males from certain populations or regions may be explained by locally high selfing rates, high hermaphrodite outcross siring success (e.g. due to high pollen production by hermaphrodites), or to stochastic processes (e.g. the failure of males to invade populations or regions following colonization or range expansion by hermaphrodites). In the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco, the presence of males with hermaphrodites in the wind-pollinated androdioecious plant Mercurialis annua (Euphorbiaceae) varies both among populations within relatively small regions and among regions, with some regions lacking males from all populations. The species is known to have expanded its range into the Iberian Peninsula from a southern refugium. To account for variation in male presence in M. annua, we test the following hypotheses: (1) that males are absent in areas where plant densities are lower, because selfing rates should be correspondingly higher; (2) that males are absent in areas where hermaphrodites produce more pollen; and (3) that males are absent in areas where there is an elevated proportion of populations in which plant density and hermaphrodite pollen production disfavour their invasion. We found support for predictions two and three in Morocco (the putative Pleistocene refugium for M. annua) but no support for any hypothesis in Iberia (the expanded range). Our results are partially consistent with a hypothesis of sex-allocation equilibrium for populations in Morocco; in Iberia, the absence of males from large geographical regions is more consistent with a model of sex-ratio evolution in a metapopulation with recurrent population turnover. Our study points to the role of both frequency-dependent selection and contingencies imposed by colonization during range expansions and in metapopulations.
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