, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 497-508
Date: 03 Feb 2010

An experimental study of the S-Allee effect in the self-incompatible plant Biscutella neustriaca

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Homomorphic self-incompatibility (SI) evolved in many plant families to enforce selfing avoidance, and is controlled by a single multiallelic locus (the S-locus). In a fragmented landscape, strong variation in population size and in local density is expected to cause strong variation in allelic diversity at the S-locus, which could generate an Allee effect on female reproductive success by constraining compatible pollen availability. In this experimental study, we aimed at detecting this SI-specific Allee effect (or S-Allee effect) in the endangered species Biscutella neustriaca. We demonstrated the occurrence of a SI mating system in the species and determined compatibility relationships among genotypes through a large set of controlled pollinations. For the experiment, we chose three different pollen receptor genotypes, each compatible with respectively 100, 75 and 25% of four other genotypes, which constituted the pollen sources. We placed different ramets of each receptor at different distances from the pollen sources to control for pollen limitation due to low local density, and we measured the seed set on each receptor plant three times consecutively. Analyses performed with generalized linear mixed models showed that both the distance to the pollen sources and the mate availability due to SI had a significant effect on seed set, with a strong reduction observed when mate availability was limited to 25%. Our results suggest that pollen limitation due to a restriction in compatible mate availability could occur in small or scattered populations exhibiting low allelic diversity at the S-locus.