Original Papers

Oecologia

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 244-249

First online:

Incidence of dioecy in relation to growth form, pollination and dispersal

  • J. F. FoxAffiliated withInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska

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Summary

Recent theories predict the evolution of dioecy among higher plants, in association with certain pollination and fruit dispersal traits. However, reported associations of dioecy with pollination, dispersal and growth form traits have not distinguished the effects of each trait separately, controlling for the others. Because these traits are associated among themselves, existing analyses may involve spurious or indirect correlations. This paper reports the incidence of dioecy in a subarctic and an arctic flora, and analyzes the occurrence of dioecy among vascular plants classified jointly by growth form, floral (pollination) syndrome, and fruit (dispersal) syndrome. Dioecism is no more frequent in the arctic flora as a whole, but its incidence increases northward among woody plants. This increase is associated with an increase in the proportion of woody species having small, inconspicuous flowers, and not with the syndrome of fleshy or animal dispersed fruits. Within the floras of Alaska, California, and the Northeastern US, dioecy is markedly more frequent among woody plants and among plants having small, inconspicuous flowers, and that is the only strong statistical association of dioecy for the species of these floras. When genera and families are analyzed similarly, dioecy is also associated significantly with dispersal syndrome. Thus, among angiosperms, evidence currently does not support either an uniquely strong or exclusive association of dioecy with dispersal traits, as it does for gymnosperms (Givnish 1980). It is extremely desirable to analyze the occurrence of dioecy among taxa classified jointly by all relevant ecological traits, rather than analyzing marginal distributions.