Rosas, F., P-A. Jessica, and C. A. Domínguez. 2005. Environmentally induced variation in fecundity compensation in the morph-biased male-sterile distylous shrub Erythroxylum havanense (Erythroxylaceae). American Journal of Botany 92: 116-122. Preprinted
The evolution of male-sterile individuals in hermaphroditic species represents the first step in the evolution of sex specialization. For male-sterile individuals to persist they must have some fitness advantage that compensates for their loss of the male function. Female fecundity also depends on environmental factors as those determining the likelihood of pollination and fertilization. Here we assessed the effects of both male sterility and reproductive synchrony (an environmentally affected trait) on the magnitude of female compensation of Erythroxylum havanense, a distylous shrub with morph-biased male sterility. In vitro measurements of pollen germination showed that thrums were more male sterile than pins. The compensatory advantage of thrums changed by a factor of five depending on flowering synchrony. Flowering in synchrony with the population increased fruit production in both morphs. However, because pins that flowered out of synchrony produced almost no fruits, the reproductive compensation of thrums was higher in these circumstances. Because the magnitude of compensation is frequently considered as a key factor in the evolution of sex specialization, the environmentally induced variation in the magnitude of the reproductive compensation of thrum plants may have profound effects on the evolutionary dynamics of the reproductive system of E. havanense.