Mating systems

In a new paper, published online in Molecular Ecology, Pannell (2015) reviews the literature on the evolution of mating systems and dispersal in colonizing species as component of a special issue called Invasion Genetics: The Baker and Stebbins Legacy. 

This issue is also the product of a special symposium at Asilomar in August 2014. I couldn’t resist a painting of that beautiful coastline where I spent my days as a budding molecular ecologist as well as writing about mating systems!

Asilomar Beach © karenwinters.com

Asilomar Beach © karenwinters.com

Self-compatibility should be a common feature among colonizing species (aka Baker’s Law). Colonization of oceanic islands, range expansions, biological invasions and metapopulation dynamics have all  been discussed within the context of Baker’s Law. But as with any law, there has been a lot of debate about its generality.

Models invoking the evolution of mating systems and dispersal seem to be at odds with models invoking Baker’s Law. Indeed, the

overwhelming feeling one gets from the literature on the evolution of reproductive and dispersal traits in colonizing species is one of cryptic complexity. Terms such as colonization, self-fertilization and dispersal roll easily off the tongue (or pen), but each of these terms encompasses a hazardously broad range of possible meanings.

Pannell argues for a more “nuanced consideration of dispersal” and the necessity of outcrossing and selfing rates as opposed to the ability to undergo self-fertilization.

Plants, in particular, are known for the plasticity of plant sexuality. Yet, we have a

poor understanding of the distribution of reproductive and dispersal traits in colonizing species.

Certainly, more empirical and theoretical work is necessary, but this work should also go beyond plants and animals that a diploid-dominant.

Pannell, JR (2015) Evolution of the mating system in colonizing plants. Molecular Ecology DOI: 10.1111/mec.13087

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About Stacy Krueger-Hadfield

I am a marine evolutionary ecologist interested in the impacts of seascapes and complex life cycles on marine population dynamics. I use natural history, manipulative field experiments and population genetic and genomic approaches with algal and invertebrate models in temperate rocky shores,estuaries and the open ocean.
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