Pollination context alters female advantage in gynodioecious Silene vulgaris

James Stone, Matthew Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gynodioecy, the co-occurrence of females and hermaphrodites, is arguably the most common angiosperm gender polymorphism in many florae. Females’ ability to invade and persist among hermaphrodites depends, in part, on pollinators providing adequate pollination to females. We directly measured diurnal and nocturnal pollinators’ contributions to female and hermaphrodite seed production in artificial populations of gynodioecious Silene vulgaris by experimentally restricting pollinator access. We found that female relative seed production in this system depended strongly on pollination context: females produced more than twice as many seeds as hermaphrodites in the context of abundant, nectar-collecting moths. Conversely, females showed no seed production advantage in the context of pollen-collecting syrphid flies and bees due to acutely hermaphrodite-biased visitation. We infer that variation in pollinator type, behaviour and abundance may be important for achieving the female relative fitness thresholds necessary for the maintenance of gynodioecy. Generally, our study illustrates how pollinator-mediated mechanisms may influence the evolution of breeding systems and associated suites of floral traits. Segments of a pollinator community may facilitate gynodioecy by selecting for plant characteristics that increase the attractiveness of both sexes to pollinators, such as nectar rewards. Conversely, discriminating visitors in search of pollen may restrict gynodioecy in associated plant lineages by reducing male steriles’ fitness below threshold levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • cytoplasmic male sterility
  • dioecy
  • gynodioecy
  • mating system
  • pollinator behaviour
  • resource compensation
  • sex ratio


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