Differential outcrossing rates in dispersing and non-dispersing achenes in the heterocarpic plant Crepis sancta (Asteraceae)

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The association between mating systems and dispersal in plants has been studied mostly in cleistogamous species where, generally, seeds produced by cleistogamous (selfed) flowers are less dispersed than seeds produced by chasmogamous (potentially outcrossed) flowers. In heterocarpic Asteraceae, non-dispersing fruits (achenes) are produced at the periphery of the capitulum (outer florets) whereas dispersing achenes are produced by inner florets in the same capitulum. Since all the florets are protandrous, the outer floret developing first are in female phasis when anthesis of inner florets takes place. Thus, outer florets can be potentially selfed by the inner florets of the same capitulum whereas the latter must be pollinated by flowers of other capitula. Therefore outer florets should be more inbred than inner florets. To test this hypothesis, we measured the natural outcrossing rate in outer and inner florets using allozymes in three populations of the heterocarpic Crepis sancta. The results showed that the outcrossing rate was highest for non-dispersed achenes. Moreover, among the outcrossed achenes within a capitulum it was observed that the number of paternal parents of non-dispersing achenes was higher than for dispersing achenes. The pattern observed was therefore the opposite to the pattern of cleistogamous plants and contradicts the putative pollination mechanism we proposed for Asteraceae. The results agree with the predictions of sib competition theory which considers that outcrossing may minimize competitive interactions among relatives (sibs) falling near the mother plant. Higher outcrossing rate in outer florets could also occur because pollinators are more attracted to these florets.

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