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Pollen-tube competition and male fitness in Hibiscus moscheutos

Pollen-tube competition and male fitness in Hibiscus moscheutos

Evolution 50(5): 1866-1870

The stigmas of animal-pollinated flowers often capture more pollen than is needed to fertilize all available ovules, and mixed-donor pollen loads are probably common. When this is the case, variation in average pollen-tube growth rates can potentially affect the number of seeds sired by a given plant. Despite considerable interest in effects of postpollination processes on male fitness, little is known about the extent of variation in pollen performance among plants from natural populations. To examine this question in Hibiscus moscheutos (rose mallow), we conducted mixed-donor hand-pollination experiments with 39 pollen donors bearing distinctive isozyme markers. Pairs of competing donors were compared on sets of 11 to 15 recipient plants per pair. These donors often differed in the proportions of seeds they sired, with the maximum deviation from an expected ratio of 50:50 being 68:32. Furthermore, three intensively studied plants exhibited consistent trends in relative pollen performance when each was tested against (1) the same three competitors, and (2) groups of 14 competitors chosen at random from the study population. In a separate experiment, we investigated the effects of salinity stress and high soil nutrients on pollen performance. These environmental factors had anticipated effects on leaf production, flower production, and petal length, but style length and (most importantly) the number of seeds sired relative to a standard pollen donor were not affected. In summary, this study provides the strongest evidence to date that pollen-tube competitive ability varies among coexisting plants and may be an important component of male fitness in plants.

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Accession: 002924206

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DOI: 10.2307/2410744

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