Journal of Evolutionary Biology 16(6): 1177 (Nov 2003)
Sex choice in plants: facultative adjustment of the sex ratio in the perennial herb Begonia gracilis
S. López & C. A. Domínguez

Begonia gracilis - Begonia diversifolia. From: Curtis's botanical magazine. London, 1830, volume 57 (plate 2966).


Sex allocation theory predicts that reproducing individuals will increase their fitness by facultatively adjusting their relative investment towards the rarer sex in response to population shifts in operational sex ratio (OSR). The evolution of facultative manipulation of sex ratio depends on the ability of the parents to track the conditions favouring skewed sex allocation and on the mechanism controlling sex allocation. In animals, which have well-developed sensorial mechanisms, facultative adjustment of sex ratios has been demonstrated on many occasions. In this paper, we show that plants have mechanisms that allow them to evaluate the population OSR. We simulated three different conditions of population OSR by manipulating the amount of pollen received by the female flowers of a monoecious herb, and examined the effect of this treatment on the allocation to male vs. female flowers. A shortage of pollen on the stigmas resulted in a more male-skewed sex allocation, whereas plants that experienced a relatively pollen rich environment tended to produce a more female-skewed sex allocation pattern. Our results for Begonia gracilis demonstrate that the individuals of this species are able to respond to the levels of pollination intensity experienced by their female flowers and adjust their patterns of sex allocation in accordance to the expectations of sex allocation theory.

Begonia list