Optimal sex allocation under pollen limitation

Philip H. Crowley, William Harris, Evelyn Korn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Most flowering plants are simultaneous hermaphrodites. Within species and even within local populations, sex allocation is usually highly plastic. Here, we link pollen sufficiency to the size of pollen-exchanging groups (i.e., pollen neighborhoods) and to pollen transfer efficiency, using an individual-based game-theoretic framework to determine the stable distribution of sex allocation that does not require the unrealistic assumption of infinitely large, panmictic populations. In the absence of selfing, we obtain the novel result that pollen limitation destabilizes hermaphroditism and favors separate sexes, whereas hermaphroditism remains stable without pollen limitation. With mixed mating, hermaphroditism is stable except when the fitness value of selfed offspring is less than half that of outcrossed offspring (i.e., strong inbreeding depression). In that case, the size of pollen neighborhoods, pollen transfer efficiencies, and the relative fitness of selfed offspring determine whether separate sexes or hermaphroditism is the stable outcome. The model thus predicts that separate sexes can derive from either of two ancestral states: obligate outcrossing under pollen limitation, or mixed mating (competing self-fertilization) under severe inbreeding depression. It also predicts conditions under which variance in sex-allocation among hermaphrodites within pollen exchanging groups along a gradient of pollen limitation can range from high (dioecy) to near zero (equal proportions of male and female investment).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-431
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


  • Evolution of dioecy
  • Game theory
  • Hermaphroditism
  • Individual-based model
  • Plasticity
  • Selfing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling


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