Gender Strategies and Sex-Ratio Evolution in the Clonal Aquatic Plant: Sagittaria latifolia (Alismataceae)

Event Details

December 13, 2012
2:00 pm


Sarah Yakimowski, Exit Seminar

Host: Spencer Barrett

Sarah’s abstract:

Flowering plants display diverse reproductive systems, including a variety of gender strategies and mechanisms of clonal propagation. Here, I investigate gender strategies, sex-ratio evolution, and sexual dimorphism in the North American clonal aquatic, Sagittaria latifolia (Alismataceae), which exhibits three sex phenotypes (hermaphrodites, females, males) and two modal sexual systems (monoecy, dioecy). This provides an outstanding opportunity to examine the costs and benefits of combined versus separate sexes. My research focused on the northern range limit in eastern N. America, and on disjunct populations in western N. America. I developed microsatellite (SSR) markers to investigate population genetic structure at several spatial scales, including the clonal structure of local populations to continental patterns. These analyses provided insights on the roles of historical, ecological and reproductive factors in the evolution and maintenance of sexual system diversity.

Phenotypic sex ratios varied near continuously from monoecy through subdioecy (three sex phenotypes) to dioecy. A comparison of phenotypic and genotypic sex ratios in dioecious populations demonstrated close correspondence. The northern range limit was characterized by a decline in female frequency and an increased incidence of subdioecy. I evaluated two hypotheses to explain this pattern: (1) increased sex inconstancy in dioecious populations; (2) hybridization between monoecious and dioecious populations. I found support for both hypotheses, although hybridization appears to be the more common pathway to subdioecy. I parameterized a model predicting female frequency and hermaphrodite sex allocation; observed and predicted values were correlated suggesting that subdioecious populations are closer to equilibrium than expected for a clonal perennial.

A comparison of eastern and western populations indicated genetic differentiation between monoecy and dioecy in the east, but in the west, due to habitat isolation, geography plays a more important role in genetic differentiation. Evidence from cpDNA haplotype variation indicated that the western range was established following long-distance colonization from the east involving a genetic bottleneck. The discovery of gynodioecious populations of S. latifolia in the west, and the absence of ecological and genetic differentiation between monoecious and dioecious populations, raise the possibility that dioecy may have evolved autochthonously in the west, and more recently than in the eastern range.