Most flowering plants are hermaphrodites and gain fitness both through male function (ex-porting pollen, siring seeds) and female function (receiving pollen, producing seeds). Most studies that assess mate diversity focus on paternity (number of sires per fruit or maternal plant) and very rarely are both male and female components of genetic diversity of mates analyzed. By constructing an experimental array of 49 unique genets of Mimulus ringens, subsequently naturally pollinated by wild bumblebees, Christopher et al. use DNA paternity analyses on the offspring to quantify mate composition through male and female function. They found that the identity of mates was significantly different through the two sexual functions. In fact, the plants on which an individual sired seeds, and the fathers of seeds of that individual, were rarely the same. The authors conclude that having dual sexual functions can nearly double mate diversity, and this may help explain the persistence of hermaphroditism under conditions that might otherwise favor the evolution of separate sexes.
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Christopher DA, Mitchell RJ, Trapnell DW, Smallwood PA, Semski WR, Karron JD. 2019. Hermaphroditism promotes mate diversity in flowering plants.
American Journal of Botany doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.1336