Pollinator-mediated competition, reproductive character displacement, and the evolution of selfing in Arenaria uniflora (Caryophyllaceae)

Lila Fishman, Robert Wyatt

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185 Scopus citations


Ecological factors that reduce the effectiveness of cross-pollination are likely to play a role in the frequent evolution of routine self-fertilization in flowering plants. However, we lack empirical evidence linking the reproductive assurance value of selfing in poor pollination environments to evolutionary shifts in mating system. Here, we investigated the adaptive significance of prior selfing in the polymorphic annual plant Arenaria uniflora (Caryophyllaceae), in which selfer populations occur only in areas of range overlap with congener A. glabra. To examine the hypothesis that secondary contact between the two species contributed to the evolution and maintenance of selfing, we used field competition experiments and controlled hand-pollinations to measure the female fitness consequences of pollinator-mediated interspecific interactions. Uniformly high fruit set by selfers in the naturally pollinated field arrays confirmed the reproductive assurance value of selfing, whereas substantial reductions in outcrosser fruit set (15%) and total seed production (20-35%) in the presence of A. glabra demonstrated that pollinator-mediated interactions can provide strong selection for self-pollination. Heterospecific pollen transfer, rather than competition for pollinator service, appears to be the primary mechanism of pollinator-mediated competition in Arenaria. Premating barriers to hybridization between outcrossers and A. glabra are extremely weak. The production of a few inviable hybrid seeds after heterospecific pollination and intermediate seed set after mixed pollinations indicates that A. glabra pollen can usurp A. uniflora ovules. Thus, any visit to A. uniflora by shared pollinators carries-a potential female fitness cost. Moreover, patterns of fruit set and seed set in the competition arrays relative to controls were consistent with the receipt of mixed pollen loads, rather than a lack of pollinator visits. Competition through pollen transfer favors preemptive self-pollination and may be responsible for the evolution of a highly reduced floral morphology in A. uniflora selfers as well as their current geographical distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1723-1733
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Arenaria
  • Hybridization
  • Mating system evolution
  • Reproductive character displacement
  • Self-pollination


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