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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2001

Evolution of pistil length as a choice mechanism for pollen quality

Lankinen, Åsa; Skogsmyr, Io


During the fertilisation process in plants, pollen tube growth rate may be selected as a trait important in male to male competition. Since female morphology provides the necessary selective arena for such competition. we investigate if sexual selection theory can be used to explain the evolution of pistil length as a female choice mechanism. This choice is performed by direct interference with male to male competition. Furthermore, the sessile nature of plants limits the number of mates a female can choose between, which could limit the benefit a female can gain from distinguishing between donors. To mirror these circumstances, we model a situation when there are only two competitors at a time. Using a game theoretical approach we show that if pollen tube growth rate can be used as an indication of heritable quality, pistil length can be selected in response to variation of this trait. We further find that length of the pistil affects selection of pollen tube growth rate. Thus female preference and male competitive ability co-evolve, but this does not necessarily lead to a positive relationship between the two. Under certain circumstances we find a negative relation instead. Given realistic differences in male quality, the model indicates that there is a potential for evolution of female morphology as a choice mechanism for pollen quality.

Published in

2001, volume: 92, number: 1, pages: 81-90

Authors' information

Lund University
Skogsmyr, Io
Lund University

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

Publication Identifiers


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