Factors influencing male mating success in bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa

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Abstract

Pollen donors of acorns and saplings in a stand of bur oak were identified by paternity exclusion using microsatellite genotype analysis. Here we examine the influence of several factors likely to affect reproductive success of males with wind-dispersed pollen, including distance of pollen donor from maternal tree, genetic relatedness of pollen donor to maternal tree, direction of pollen donor relative to maternal tree, and size of pollen donor (crown volume and trunk diameter). Surprisingly, none of these factors were strongly correlated with fertilization success, although weak but significant correlations with crown volume and distance were found. The slight influence of distance is actually overestimated here, because our analysis necessarily excluded a large proportion of pollinations that were effected by trees outside the stand. The pollen donors outside the stand were not identified, but were more than 150 meters away. Pollination patterns in this stand of bur oak are quite complicated. Seed parents were fertilized by multiple pollen donors within the stand from all directions and as far as 200 m away. These results caution against the use of models of pollination that are based on simple distance or directional parameters because they will not adequately predict gene flow or male reproductive success. Our results further emphasize the importance of genetically identifying successful pollen donors rather than relying on patterns of physical movement of pollen.

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