Clonal growth is enhanced in the absence of a mating morph: a comparative study of fertile stylar polymorphic and sterile monomorphic populations of Nymphoides montana (Menyanthaceae).
BACKGROUND AND AIMS
Many aquatic species with stylar polymorphisms have the capacity for clonal and sexual reproduction and are sensitive to the balance of the two reproductive modes when there are a limited number of mating morphs within a population. This study asked how the clonal and sexual reproductive modes perform in populations that contain only a single morph and where fitness gain through sexual reproduction is rare. In clonal aquatic Nymphoides montana, polymorphic populations normally contain two mating morphs in equal frequencies. Populations are sexually fertile and appear to be maintained by pollen transfer between the two partners. However, in a monomorphic population of N. montana where mating opportunities are unavailable, female and male function is impaired and clonality maintains the population. Here, the consequences of intraspecific variation in sexuality were explored between monomorphic and polymorphic N. montana populations in eastern Australia.
Comparative measurements of male and female fertility, total dry mass and genotypic diversity using ISSR markers were made between populations with variable sexuality.
KEY RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS
Very few seeds were produced in the monomorphic population under natural and glasshouse conditions due to dysfunctional pollen and ovules. Stigma-anther separation was minimal in the monomorphic population, which may be a consequence of the relaxed selective pressures that regulate the maintenance of sexual function. However, clonal reproduction was favoured at the expense of sexual reproduction in the monomorphic population; this may facilitate the establishment of sterility throughout the population via resource reallocation or pleiotropic effects. The ISSR results showed that the monomorphic population was one large, single genotype, unlike the multi-genotypic fertile polymorphic populations. Evolutionary loss of sex in a clonal population in which a mating morph is absent was evident; under these conditions clonal growth may assure reproduction and expand the population via spreading stolons.
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Ecosystem Management, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't