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Which is the costlier sex?: Sexual dimorphism and resource allocation in a dioecious herb, Silene dioica
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Life-history theory proposes that different activities, such as growth, maintenance and reproduction compete for limited resources and therefore, life-history traits are bound together by physiological trade-offs. In dioecious species, females are assumed to invest a higher amount of resources in reproduction in comparison with males and this higher investment in reproduction is then assumed to have numerous consequences for the expression of other life-history traits. Some recent papers have, however, suggested that although common, this investment pattern may not be the case in all dioecious plant species. One notable exception is Silene latifolia. Therefore, I examined whether the male sex could be investing more in reproduction than females in a closely related Silene species, Silene dioica. This study was carried out on three islands in the Skeppsvik Archipelago, Umeå, where I examined possible differences between the sexes in different life history traits. On each island, 20 patches were laid out in two different successional zones. In each patch, flowering date was recorded and stem diameter, length and width of cauline leaves, flower diameter, and number of open flowers on male and female plants was measured. At the end of the study, flowering stems were collected and thereafter dried so they could be weighed to estimate biomass allocated to male and female vegetative and reproductive structures. The hypothesis that males of S. dioica should have a higher reproductive cost seemed to be confirmed since males started flowering earlier, produced more and larger flowers, produced smaller and fewer leaves and thinner stems. The males also allocated a greater proportion of their total biomass to reproductive parts and as a consequence, had a higher sink to source ratio. This study has shown that there are exceptions to the "rule" of females having a higher cost of reproduction and when doing research on dioecious species, it is important not to assume that only one and the same sex has the higher investment in reproduction in all species. This higher cost may have consequences for survival and reproductive fitness and can select for differences in other ecological traits, such as phenology, growth, chemical composition and morphology, which could in turn affect the competitive ability and the susceptibility to herbivores and pathogens.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 27 p.
Keyword [en]
sexual dimorphism, resource allocation, cost of reproduction
National Category
Other Biological Topics
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-45060OAI: diva2:425147
Life Earth Science
Available from: 2012-02-12 Created: 2011-06-20 Last updated: 2012-02-12Bibliographically approved

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