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author:("boys, Rein")
1.  Differences in dichogamy and herkogamy contribute to higher selfing in contrasting environments in the annual Blackstonia perfoliata (Gentianaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2013;111(4):651-661.
Background and Aims
The establishment of plant populations in novel environments may generate pronounced shifts in floral traits and plant mating systems, particularly when pollinators are scarce. In this study, floral morphology and mating system functioning are compared between recently established and older populations of the annual plant Blackstonia perfoliata that occur in different pollinator environments.
Hand-pollination and emasculation experiments were conducted to assess the extent of pollinator-mediated pollen deposition and pollen limitation, and the contribution of autonomous selfing to total seed production. Detailed measurements of key floral traits were performed to compare the flower morphology and mating system functioning between plants from both pollination environments.
Key Results
Pollinator-mediated pollen deposition was about twice as low in the recently colonized and pollinator-poor environment compared with the old and pollinator-rich sites, but total seed set was little affected by any type of pollen limitation. The contribution of autonomous selfing to total seed production was higher in the pollinator-poor sites than in the pollinator-rich sites (index of reproductive assurance = 0·56 and 0·17, respectively), and seed production was only poorly affected by selfing, whereas in the pollinator-rich populations selfing reduced total reproductive output by about 40 % compared with outcross pollination. Plants originating from pollinator-poor environments produced smaller flowers that showed significantly lower levels of dichogamy (i.e. protogyny) and herkogamy. These reductions resulted in a 2-fold higher capacity for autonomous selfing under pollinator-free conditions (index of autonomous selfing = 0·81 and 0·41 in plants originating from the pollinator-poor and pollinator-rich environment, respectively).
The results illustrate that plant populations colonizing novel environments can differ markedly in floral morphology and mating system functioning. Due to a temporal shift in the male phase, the breeding system of B. perfoliata shifted from delayed selfing under pollinator-rich conditions towards competing selfing in recently established populations, providing greater reproductive assurance when pollinators and/or reproductive partners are limited.
PMCID: PMC3605963  PMID: 23408833
Autogamy; competing selfing; delayed selfing; dichogamy; herkogamy; pollen limitation; pollen quality; reproductive assurance; Blackstonia perfoliata; Gentianaceae
2.  Evolutionary demography of iteroparous plants: incorporating non-lethal costs of reproduction into integral projection models 
Understanding the selective forces that shape reproductive strategies is a central goal of evolutionary ecology. Selection on the timing of reproduction is well studied in semelparous organisms because the cost of reproduction (death) can be easily incorporated into demographic models. Iteroparous organisms also exhibit delayed reproduction and experience reproductive costs, although these are not necessarily lethal. How non-lethal costs shape iteroparous life histories remains unresolved. We analysed long-term demographic data for the iteroparous orchid Orchis purpurea from two habitat types (light and shade). In both the habitats, flowering plants had lower growth rates and this cost was greater for smaller plants. We detected an additional growth cost of fruit production in the light habitat. We incorporated these non-lethal costs into integral projection models to identify the flowering size that maximizes fitness. In both habitats, observed flowering sizes were well predicted by the models. We also estimated optimal parameters for size-dependent flowering effort, but found a strong mismatch with the observed flower production. Our study highlights the role of context-dependent non-lethal reproductive costs as selective forces in the evolution of iteroparous life histories, and provides a novel and broadly applicable approach to studying the evolutionary demography of iteroparous organisms.
PMCID: PMC3367791  PMID: 22418255
cost of reproduction; delayed reproduction; demography; integral projection model; iteroparity; life-history evolution
3.  Among-Population Variation in Microbial Community Structure in the Floral Nectar of the Bee-Pollinated Forest Herb Pulmonaria officinalis L 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e56917.
Microbial communities in floral nectar have been shown to be characterized by low levels of species diversity, yet little is known about among-plant population variation in microbial community composition.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the microbial community structure (yeasts and bacteria) in floral nectar of ten fragmented populations of the bee-pollinated forest herb Pulmonaria officinalis. We also explored possible relationships between plant population size and microbial diversity in nectar, and related microbial community composition to the distance separating plant populations. Culturable bacteria and yeasts occurring in the floral nectar of a total of 100 plant individuals were isolated and identified by partially sequencing the 16S rRNA gene and D1/D2 domains of the 26S rRNA gene, respectively. A total of 9 and 11 yeast and 28 and 39 bacterial OTUs was found, taking into account a 3% (OTU0.03) and 1% sequence dissimilarity cut-off (OTU0.01). OTU richness at the plant population level (i.e. the number of OTUs per population) was low for yeasts (mean: 1.7, range: 0–4 OTUs0.01/0.03 per population), whereas on average 6.9 (range: 2–13) OTUs0.03 and 7.9 (range 2–16) OTUs0.01 per population were found for bacteria. Both for yeasts and bacteria, OTU richness was not significantly related to plant population size. Similarity in community composition among populations was low (average Jaccard index: 0.14), and did not decline with increasing distance between populations.
We found low similarity in microbial community structure among populations, suggesting that the assembly of nectar microbiota is to a large extent context-dependent. Although the precise factors that affect variation in microbial community structure in floral nectar require further study, our results indicate that both local and regional processes may contribute to among-population variation in microbial community structure in nectar.
PMCID: PMC3594240  PMID: 23536759
4.  Biased morph ratios and skewed mating success contribute to loss of genetic diversity in the distylous Pulmonaria officinalis 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(1):227-235.
Background and Aims
In heterostylous plant species, skewed morph ratios are not uncommon and may arise from a range of factors. Despite the recognized importance of skewed morph ratios on overall reproductive success within populations, little is known about the impact of skewed morph ratios on population genetic diversity and differentiation in heterostylous species. This study specifically aimed to clarify the effect of population size and morph bias on population genetic diversity and differentiation in the temperate forest herb Pulmonaria officinalis. This species is characterized by a distylous breeding system and shows morph-specific differences in reproductive success.
Genetic diversity was determined for 27 P. officinalis populations in northern Belgium by using eight recently developed microsatellite markers. Multiple regressions were used to assess the relationship between genetic diversity, morph bias and population size, and FST-values were calculated for short- and long-styled morphs separately to study genetic differentiation as a function of morph type.
Key Results
For all genetic measures used, morph bias was more important in explaining patterns of genetic diversity than population size, and in all cases patterns of population genetic diversity followed a quadratic function, which showed a symmetrical decrease in genetic diversity with increasing morph bias. However, probably due to the reproductive advantage of L-morphs relative to S-morphs, maximum genetic diversity was found in populations showing an excess of L-morphs (60·7 % L-morph). On the other hand, no significant difference in pairwise genetic distances between populations was observed between L- (0·107) and S-morphs (0·106).
Our results indicate that significant deviations from equal morph ratios not only affect plant reproductive success but also population genetic diversity of heterostylous plant species. Hence, when defining conservation measures for populations of heterostylous plant species, morph ratios should be considered as an important trait affecting their long-term population viability.
PMCID: PMC3241589  PMID: 22021814
Boraginaceae; distyly; FST; genetic diversity; microsatellite analysis; morph bias; Pulmonaria officinalis; skewed mating success
5.  Asymmetric gene introgression in two closely related Orchis species: evidence from morphometric and genetic analyses 
In food-deceptive orchids of the genera Anacamptis, Neotinea and Orchis floral isolation has been shown to be weak, whereas late-acting reproductive barriers are mostly strong, often restricting hybridization to the F1 generation. Only in a few species hybridization extends beyond the F1 generation, giving rise to hybrid swarms. However, little is known about the abundance of later-generation hybrids and what factors drive their occurrence in hybrid populations. In this study, molecular analyses were combined with detailed morphological measurements in a hybrid population of two closely related Orchis species (Orchis militaris and O. purpurea) to investigate the hypothesis that the abundance of later-generation hybrids is driven by changes in floral characters after hybridization that exert selective pressures that in turn affect hybridization.
Both the molecular and morphological data point to extensive genetic and morphological homogenization and asymmetric introgression. Estimating genomic clines from the multi-locus genotype data and testing for deviation from neutrality revealed that 30 out of 113 (27%) AFLP markers significantly deviated from neutral expectations. Plants with large floral displays or plant with flowers that resembled more O. purpurea had higher female fitness than plants with small floral displays or plants with flowers resembling more O. militaris, suggesting that directional selection may have contributed to the observed patterns of introgression.
These results indicate that in closely related orchid species hybridization and gene introgression may be partly driven by selection for floral traits of one of the parental types. However, because some pure individuals were still present in the studied population, the parental species appeared to be sufficiently isolated to survive the challenge of sympatry.
PMCID: PMC3523012  PMID: 22967086
Admixture; Hybrid swarm; Orchis; Orchidaceae; Reproductive isolation
6.  Variation in the functioning of autonomous self-pollination, pollinator services and floral traits in three Centaurium species 
Annals of Botany  2011;107(6):917-925.
Background and Aims
Reproductive assurance through autonomous selfing is thought to be one of the main advantages of self-fertilization in plants. Floral mechanisms that ensure autonomous seed set are therefore more likely to occur in species that grow in habitats where pollination is scarce and/or unpredictable.
Emasculation and pollen supplementation experiments were conducted under laboratory conditions to investigate the capacity for, and timing of autonomous selfing in three closely related Centaurium species (Centaurium erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum). In addition, observations of flower visitors were combined with emasculation and pollen addition experiments in natural populations to investigate the degree of pollinator limitation and pollination failure and to assess the extent to which autonomous selfing conferred reproductive assurance.
All three species were capable of autonomous selfing, although this capacity differed significantly between species (index of autonomous selfing 0·55 ± 0·06, 0·68 ± 0·09 and 0·92 ± 0·03 for C. erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum, respectively). The efficiency and timing of autogamous selfing was primarily associated with differences in the degree of herkogamy and dichogamy. The number of floral visitors showed significant interspecific differences, with 1·6 ± 0·6, 5·4 ± 0·6 and 14·5 ± 2·1 floral visitors within a 2 × 2 m2 plot per 20-min observation period, for C. pulchellum, C. littorale and C. erythraea, respectively. Concomitantly, pollinator failure was highest in C. pulchellum and lowest in C. erythraea. Nonetheless, all three study species showed very low levels of pollen limitation (index of pollen limitation 0·14 ± 0·03, 0·11 ± 0·03 and 0·09 ± 0·02 for C. erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum, respectively), indicating that autonomous selfing may guarantee reproductive assurance.
These findings show that limited availability of pollinators may select for floral traits and plant mating strategies that lead to a system of reproductive assurance via autonomous selfing.
PMCID: PMC3080621  PMID: 21320880
Autonomous selfing; Centaurium erythraea; Centaurium littorale; Centaurium pulchellum; competing selfing; delayed selfing; floral emasculation; pollen-limitation; pollinator failure; pollen : ovule ratio; reproductive assurance
7.  Mycorrhizal associations and reproductive isolation in three closely related Orchis species 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(3):347-356.
Background and Aims
The maintenance of species boundaries in sympatric populations of closely related species requires some kind of reproductive isolation that limits gene flow among species and/or prevents the production of viable progeny. Because in orchids mycorrhizal fungi are needed for seed germination and subsequent seedling establishment, orchid–mycorrhizal associations may be involved in acting as a post-mating barrier.
We investigated the strength of post-mating barriers up to the seed germination stage acting between three closely related Orchis species (Orchis anthropophora, O. militaris and O. purpurea) and studied the role of mycorrhizal fungi in hybridization by burying seed packets of pure and hybrid seeds. After retrieval and assessment of seed germination, the fungi associating with protocorms originating from hybrid and pure seeds were determined and compared with those associating with adult individuals using DNA array technology.
Whereas pre-zygotic post-mating barriers were rather weak in most crosses, post-zygotic post-mating barriers were stronger, particularly when O. purpurea was crossed with O. anthropophora. Germination trials in the field showed that seed germination percentages of hybrid seeds were in most cases lower than those originating from pure crosses. In all species pair combinations, total post-mating reproductive isolation was asymmetric. Protocorms associated with a smaller range of fungal symbionts than adult plants, but there was considerable overlap in mycorrhizal associations between protocorms and their respective parents.
Our results suggest that mycorrhizal associations contribute little to reproductive isolation. Pre-mating barriers are probably the main factors determining hybridization rates between the investigated species.
PMCID: PMC3043927  PMID: 21186239
DNA array; gene flow; hybrid zones; mycorrhizal associations; reproductive barriers; seed germination
8.  Large population sizes mitigate negative effects of variable weather conditions on fruit set in two spring woodland orchids 
Biology Letters  2009;5(4):495-498.
Global circulation models predict increased climatic variability, which could increase variability in demographic rates and affect long-term population viability. In animal-pollinated species, pollination services, and thus fruit and seed set, may be highly variable among years and sites, and depend on both local environmental conditions and climatic variables. Orchid species may be particularly vulnerable to disruption of their pollination services, as most species depend on pollinators for successful fruit set and because seed germination and seedling recruitment are to some extent dependent on the amount of fruits and seeds produced. Better insights into the factors determining fruit and seed set are therefore indispensable for a better understanding of population dynamics and viability of orchid populations under changing climatic conditions. However, very few studies have investigated spatio-temporal variation in fruit set in orchids. Here, we quantified fruit production in eight populations of the orchid Orchis purpurea that does not reward pollinators and 13 populations of the rewarding Neottia (Listera) ovata during five consecutive years (2002–2006). Fruit production in large populations showed much higher stability than that in small populations and was less affected by extreme weather conditions. Our results highlight the potential vulnerability of small orchid populations to an increasingly variable climate through highly unpredictable fruit-set patterns.
PMCID: PMC2781932  PMID: 19457885
environmental stochasticity; female reproductive success; orchids; pollination; temporal variability

Results 1-8 (8)