Background Semelparity and iteroparity are considered to be distinct and alternative life-history strategies, where semelparity is characterized by a single, fatal reproductive episode, and iteroparity by repeated reproduction throughout life. However, semelparous organisms do not reproduce instantaneously; typically reproduction occurs over an extended time period. If variation in reproductive allocation exists within such a prolonged reproductive episode, semelparity may be considered iteroparity over a shorter time scale. This continuity hypothesis predicts that “semelparous” organisms with relatively low probability of survival after age at first reproduction will exhibit more extreme semelparity than those with high probability of adult survival. This contrasts with the conception of semelparity as a distinct reproductive strategy expressing a discrete, single, bout of reproduction, where reproductive phenotype is expected to be relatively invariant. Here, we manipulate expected season length—and thus expected adult survival—to ask whether Lobelia inflata, a classic “semelparous” plant, exhibits plasticity along a semelparous-iteroparous continuum. Results Groups of replicated genotypes were manipulated to initiate reproduction at different points in the growing season in each of three years. In lab and field populations alike, the norm of reaction in parity across a season was as predicted by the continuity hypothesis: as individuals bolted later, they showed shorter time to, and smaller size at first reproduction, and multiplied their reproductive organs through branching, thus producing offspring more simultaneously. Conclusions This work demonstrates that reproductive effort occurs along a semelparous-iteroparous continuum within a “semelparous” organism, and that variation in parity occurs within populations as a result of phenotypic plasticity.
Background Traditionally, the evolution of terrestrial reproduction in anurans from ancestors that bred in water has been accepted in the literature. Still, the existence of intermediate stages of water dependency, such as species that lay eggs close to water (e.g., in burrows) instead of in bodies of water, supports the hypothesis of an ordered and gradual evolution in the direction of a more terrestrial form of reproduction. However, this conventional view has recently been challenged for some anurans groups. Leptodactylinae frogs are a remarkable example of anurans with an outstanding diversity in terms of reproductive features, with distinct water dependency among lineages. Here, we tested the hypothesis of a gradual and ordered tendency towards terrestriality in Leptodactylinae, including the existence of obligatory intermediate stages, such as semi-terrestrial reproductive strategies. We also addressed the association between reproductive modes and the morphological and ecological features. Results An ancestral reconstruction analysis indicated that even though shifts from aquatic to terrestrial breeding occurred throughout the history of Leptodactylus and Adenomera, shifts from terrestrial to aquatic reproduction happened at almost the same frequency. Our results also demonstrated that reproductive modes for semi-terrestrial tadpoles were not necessarily an intermediate form between aquatic and terrestrial breeds. Correlations among reproductive modes and other life-history traits suggested that tadpole environment, clutch size, nuptial spines, and egg pigmentation were co-evolving and driven by water dependency. Conclusions Our results found no evidence of evolutionary tendencies toward terrestriality in Leptodactylinae. We found reversals from terrestrial to aquatic tadpole development and no evidence of obligatory intermediate stages, such as semi-terrestrial reproductive strategies. We also found correlations between reproductive modes and other life-history traits driven by water dependence. Aquatic reproductive modes are associated with higher clutch sizes, lentic waters, and the presence of nuptial spines and egg pigmentation.
Background The Pleistocene climatic oscillations are considered as a major driving force of intraspecific divergence and speciation. During Ice Ages, populations isolated in allopatric glacial refugia can experience differentiation in reproductive traits through divergence in selection regimes. This phenomenon may lead to reproductive isolation and dramatically accentuates the consequences of the climatic oscillations on species. Alternatively, when reproductive isolation is incomplete and populations are expanding again, further mating between the formerly isolated populations can result in the formation of a hybrid zone, genetic introgression or reinforcement speciation through reproductive trait displacements. Therefore changes in reproductive traits driven by population movements during climatic oscillations can act as an important force in promoting pre-zygotic isolation. Notwithstanding, divergence of reproductive traits has not been approached in the context of climatic oscillations. Here we investigate the impact of population movements driven by climatic oscillations on a reproductive trait of a bumblebee species (Bombus lapidarius). We characterise the pattern of variation and differentiation across the species distribution (i) with five genes (nuclear and mitochondrial), and (ii) in the chemical composition of male marking secretions (MMS), a key trait for mate attraction in bumblebees. Results Our results provide evidence that populations have experienced a genetic allopatric differentiation, in at least three main refugia (the Balkans, Centre-Eastern Europe, and Southern Italy) during Quaternary glaciations. The comparative chemical analyses show that populations from the Southern Italian refugium have experienced MMS differentiation and an incipient speciation process from another refugium. The meeting of Southern Italian populations with other populations as a result of range expansion at a secondary contact zone seems to have led to a reinforcement process on local MMS patterns. Conclusions This study suggests that population movement during Quaternary climatic oscillations can lead to divergence in reproductive traits by allopatric differentiation during Ice Ages and by reinforcement during post-glacial recolonization.
Background The reproductive ground plan hypothesis of social evolution suggests that reproductive controls of a solitary ancestor have been co-opted during social evolution, facilitating the division of labor among social insect workers. Despite substantial empirical support, the generality of this hypothesis is not universally accepted. Thus, we investigated the prediction of particular genes with pleiotropic effects on ovarian traits and social behavior in worker honey bees as a stringent test of the reproductive ground plan hypothesis. We complemented these tests with a comprehensive genome scan for additional quantitative trait loci (QTL) to gain a better understanding of the genetic architecture of the ovary size of honey bee workers, a morphological trait that is significant for understanding social insect caste evolution and general insect biology. Results Back-crossing hybrid European x Africanized honey bee queens to the Africanized parent colony generated two study populations with extraordinarily large worker ovaries. Despite the transgressive ovary phenotypes, several previously mapped QTL for social foraging behavior demonstrated ovary size effects, confirming the prediction of pleiotropic genetic effects on reproductive traits and social behavior. One major QTL for ovary size was detected in each backcross, along with several smaller effects and two QTL for ovary asymmetry. One of the main ovary size QTL coincided with a major QTL for ovary activation, explaining 3/4 of the phenotypic variance, although no simple positive correlation between ovary size and activation was observed. Conclusions Our results provide strong support for the reproductive ground plan hypothesis of evolution in study populations that are independent of the genetic stocks that originally led to the formulation of this hypothesis. As predicted, worker ovary size is genetically linked to multiple correlated traits of the complex division of labor in worker honey bees, known as the pollen hoarding syndrome. The genetic architecture of worker ovary size presumably consists of a combination of trait-specific loci and general regulators that affect the whole behavioral syndrome and may even play a role in caste determination. Several promising candidate genes in the QTL intervals await further study to clarify their potential role in social insect evolution and the regulation of insect fertility in general.
Background In insect societies, intracolonial genetic variation is predicted to affect both colony efficiency and reproductive skew. However, because the effects of genetic variation on these two colony characteristics have been tested independently, it remains unclear whether they are affected by genetic variation independently or in a related manner. Here we test the effect of genetic variation on colony efficiency and reproductive skew in a rhinotermitid termite, Reticulitermes speratus, a species in which female-female pairs can facultatively found colonies. We established colonies using two types of female-female pairs: colonies founded by sisters (i.e., sister-pair colonies) and those founded by females from different colonies (i.e., unrelated-pair colonies). Colony growth and reproductive skew were then compared between the two types of incipient colonies. Results At 15 months after colony foundation, unrelated-pair colonies were larger than sister-pair colonies, although the caste ratio between workers and nymphs, which were alternatively differentiated from young larvae, did not differ significantly. Microsatellite DNA analyses of both founders and their parthenogenetically produced offspring indicated that, in both sister-pair and unrelated-pair colonies, there was no significant skew in the production of eggs, larvae, workers and soldiers. Nymph production, however, was significantly more skewed in the sister-pair colonies than in unrelated-pair colonies. Because nymphs can develop into winged adults (alates) or nymphoid reproductives, they have a higher chance of direct reproduction than workers in this species. Conclusions Our results support the idea that higher genetic variation among colony members could provide an increase in colony productivity, as shown in hymenopteran social insects. Moreover, this study suggests that low genetic variation (high relatedness) between founding females increases reproductive skew via one female preferentially channeling her relatives along the reproductive track. This study thus demonstrated that, in social insects, intracolonial genetic variation can simultaneously affect both colony efficiency and reproductive skew.
Background In ecological character displacement, traits involved in reproductive isolation may not evolve in arbitrary directions when changes in these traits are by-products of adaptation to an ecological niche. In reproductive character displacement, however, selection acts directly on reproductive characters to enhance the degree of reproductive isolation between sympatric populations. Thus, the direction of change in reproductive characters may be arbitrary in relation to changes in other morphological characters. We characterized both tegminal characters and characters indicative of body size in sympatric and allopatric populations of Gryllus fultoni, a species displaying character displacement in its calling song characters in areas of sympatry with G. vernalis populations, to infer the nature and direction of selection acting on reproductive and morphological characters in sympatry. Results Except for mirror area, the number of teeth in a file, and ovipositor length of G. fultoni, all male and female morphological characters in G. fultoni and G. vernalis exhibited a uniform tendency to decrease in size with increasing latitude. There was no significant variation in female morphological characters between sympatric and allopatric G. fultoni populations. However, males of sympatric and allopatric G. fultoni populations significantly differed in head width, hind femur length, and mirror area even after controlling for clinal factors. Head width and hind femur length of G. fultoni were more similar to those of G. vernalis in sympatric populations than in allopatric populations, resulting in morphological convergence of G. fultoni and G. vernalis in sympatry. However, the mirror area of G. fultoni displayed the divergent pattern in relation to the sympatric G. vernalis populations. Conclusion Divergence-enhancing selection may be acting on mirror area as well as calling song characters, whereas local adaptation or clinal effects may explain variation in other morphological characters in sympatric populations of G. fultoni. This study also suggests that structures and behaviors that directly enhance reproductive isolation may evolve together, independently of other morphological traits.
Background Decreases in mate and/or pollinator availability would be expected to affect the selective pressure on plant mating systems. An increase in self-fertilization may evolve to compensate for the negative effects of pollination failure. However, the benefit of selfing in variable pollination environments depends on the relative fitnesses of selfed and outcrossed progeny. We investigated the potential for selfing to provide reproductive assurance over the lifetime of a long-lived perennial species and its variation between plant patches of various sizes. Patch size is likely to affect mate and pollinator availabilities, thereby affecting pollination success and the rate of selfing. We estimated fruit and seed set, reproductive assurance, self-compatibility, the multilocus patch selfing rate and lifetime inbreeding depression in natural patches of Rhododendron ferrugineum (Ericaceae), a mass-flowering species characterized by considerable patch size variation (as estimated by the total number of inflorescences). Results Open seed set declined linearly with increasing patch size, whereas pollinator-mediated seed set (emasculated flowers) was not significantly affected. Progeny array analysis indicated that the selfing rate declined with increasing patch size, consistent with greater reproductive assurance in small sparse patches than in large, dense patches. However, fruit set and adult fitness decreased with decreasing patch size, with an estimated mean lifetime inbreeding depression of 0.9 (obtained by comparing F values in adults and progenies). Conclusions Lifetime inbreeding depression strongly counteracts the advantage of reproductive assurance due to selfing in this long-lived species. The poor fitness of selfed offspring should counteract any evolution towards selfing, despite its potential to alleviate the negative consequences of pollen limitation. This study highlights the need to estimate lifetime inbreeding depression, together with mating system and pollination parameters, if we are to understand the actual benefit of selfing and avoid the overestimation of reproductive assurance.