Background and Aims
Plants exhibit a variety of reproductive systems where unisexual (females or males) morphs coexist with hermaphrodites. The maintenance of dimorphic and polymorphic reproductive systems may be problematic. For example, to coexist with hermaphrodites the females of gynodioecious species have to compensate for the lack of male function. In our study species, Geranium sylvaticum, a perennial gynodioecious herb, the relative seed fitness advantage of females varies significantly between years within populations as well as among populations. Differences in reproductive investment between females and hermaphrodites may lead to differences in future survival, growth and reproductive success, i.e. to differential costs of reproduction. Since females of this species produce more seeds, higher costs of reproduction in females than in hermaphrodites were expected. Due to the higher costs of reproduction, the yearly variation in reproductive output of females might be more pronounced than that of hermaphrodites.
Using supplemental hand-pollination of females and hermaphrodites of G. sylvaticum we examined if increased reproductive output leads to differential costs of reproduction in terms of survival, probability of flowering, and seed production in the following year.
Experimentally increased reproductive output had differential effects on the reproduction of females and hermaphrodites. In hermaphrodites, the probability of flowering decreased significantly in the following year, whereas in females the costs were expressed in terms of decreased future seed production.
When combining the probability of flowering and seed production per plant to estimate the multiplicative change in fitness, female plants showed a 56 % and hermaphrodites showed a 39 % decrease in fitness due to experimentally increased reproduction. Therefore, in total, female plants seem to be more sensitive to the cost of reproduction in terms of seed fitness than hermaphrodites.