Ecological and evolutionary mechanisms for low seed: ovule ratios: need for a pluralistic approach?
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: Ecological and evolutionary mechanisms for low seed: ovule ratios: need for a pluralistic approach?
: J Nathaniel Holland, Scott A Chamberlain
Abstract : Central to the ecology and evolution of a broad range of plants is understanding why they routinely have submaximal reproduction manifested as low seed : ovule and fruit : flower ratios. We know much less about the processes responsible for low seed : ovule ratios than we do for fruit : flower ratios. Current hypotheses for low seed : ovule ratios are largely drawn from those for fruit : flower ratios, including proximate (ecological) causes of pollen limitation, resource limitation, and pollen quality, as well as the ultimate (evolutionary) hypothesis of "bet hedging" on stochastic pollination. Yet, such mechanisms operating on fruit : flower ratios at the whole-plant level may not best explain low seed : ovule ratios at the individual-flower level. We tested each of these proximate and ultimate causes for low seed : ovule ratios using the specialized pollination mutualism between senita cacti (Pachycereus schottii) and senita moths (Upiga virescens). Seed : ovule ratios were consistently low (approximately 0.61). Such excess ovule production by senita likely has a strong genetic component given the significant differences among plants in ovule number and the consistency in ovule production by plants within and among flowering seasons. Excess ovule production and low seed : ovule ratios could not be explained by pollen limitation, resource limitation, pollen quality, or bet hedging. Nevertheless, phenotypic selection analyses did show significant selection gradients for increased ovule number, suggesting that other evolutionary processes may be responsible for excess ovule production and low seed : ovule ratios. In contrast, low fruit : flower ratios at the whole-plant level were explained by an apparent equilibrium between pollen and resource limitation. Thus, mechanisms responsible for low fruit : flower ratios at the whole-plant level are not necessarily in accord with those of low seed : ovule ratios at the individual-flower level. This suggests that we may need to adopt a more pluralistic approach to seed : ovule ratios and consider alternative hypotheses, including a greater array of proximate and ultimate causes. Initial results of this study suggest that floral allometry, selection on correlated floral traits, stigma clogging with pollen grains, and style clogging with pollen tubes may provide promising avenues for understanding low seed : ovule ratios.
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