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Research article2017Peer reviewed

Sexually antagonistic evolution caused by male–male competition in the pistil

Lankinen, Asa; Hydbom, Sofia; Strandh, Maria


Although sexual selection and sexual conflict are important evolutionary forces in animals, their significance in plants is uncertain. In hermaphroditic organisms, such as many plants, sexual conflict may occur both between mating partners (interlocus conflict) and between male and female sex roles within an individual (intralocus conflict). We performed experimental evolution, involving lines that were crossed with either one or two pollen donors (monogamous or polyandrous lines), in the hermaphroditic plant (Collinsia heterophylla) where early fertilizations are associated with female fitness costs (reduced seed set). Artificial polyandry for four generations resulted in enhanced pollen performance and increased female fitness costs compared to the monogamous and source (starting material) lines. Female fitness was also reduced in the monogamous line, indicating a possible trade-off between sex roles, resulting from early pollination. We performed a second experiment to investigate a potential harming effect of pollen performance on seed set. We found that high siring success of early arriving pollen competing with later-arriving pollen was associated with high female fitness costs, consistent with an interlocus sexual conflict. Our study provides evidence for the importance of sexual selection in shaping evolution of plant reproductive strategies, but also pinpoints the complexity of sexual conflict in hermaphroditic species.


Collinsia heterophylla; experimental evolution; floral receptivity; pollen competition; sexual conflict; sexual selection

Published in

2017, Volume: 71, number: 10, pages: 2359-2369