Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 55–69 | Cite as

Mating pattern of a distylous primrose in a natural population: unilateral outcrossing and asymmetric selfing between sexual morphs

  • Kurumi Arima
  • Daisuke KyogokuEmail author
  • Naoyuki Nakahama
  • Kenji Suetsugu
  • Masato Ohtani
  • Chiyo Ishii
  • Hiroshi Terauchi
  • Yumiko Terauchi
  • Yuji Isagi
Original Paper


Heterostyly is a genetic polymorphism of anther and stigma heights, which are reciprocally placed among morphs. The maintenance of heterostyly has often been ascribed to disassortative mating, but alternative explanations are also possible, which can be examined by analyzing mating patterns. However, parental analysis with genetic markers has only been applied to a limited number of taxa, despite the phylogenetic diversity of heterostylous species. Here, we examined the mating patterns of a distylous primrose, Primula kisoana (Primulaceae), in its natural habitat, using 11 microsatellite markers. We also examined other fitness components. We found no differences in seed production, vegetative growth, or survival between morphs. However, the siring success of thrum fathers was much higher than that of pin fathers; outcrossing occurred unilaterally between thrum fathers and pin mothers, and selfing was more frequent in thrum plants than in pin plants. These findings are consistent with the explanation that distyly in this species is maintained either by overdominance due to previously reported recessive lethal effects of the thrum allele or by effectively dioecious mating if inbreeding depression is strong. We built a mathematical model of the overdominance hypothesis to confirm that it is logically sound. These results warrant further investigations into the possible roles of overdominance and dioecy in the maintenance of heterostyly.


Disassortative mating Dioecy Heterostyly Overdominance Parental analysis Reciprocal herkogamy 



We thank anonymous reviewers for their fruitful comments. We are grateful to Yu Matsuki and Yoshihisa Suyama for helping the genetic analysis. We are also grateful to Tomoaki Ishii, Toshio Katasho, and Youichi Saitou for helping our field survey and sampling, and to Michio Kondoh and Kazutaka Kawatsu for their advice on modeling. Sampling is conducted under permits from Kanto Regional Environmental Office, Ministry of the Environment (No. 1405201). This study was supported by The Environment Research and Technology Development Fund, Ministry of the Environment (No. 4-1605).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10682_2018_9965_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Development of microsatellite markers in P. kisoana (DOCX 22 kb)
10682_2018_9965_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Mathematical model of overdominance hypothesis (DOCX 18 kb)
10682_2018_9965_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
Data underlying the paper (XLSX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Biology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Life SciencesTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  3. 3.Plant Evolution and Biodiversity, Graduate School of Arts and SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  4. 4.Department of Biology, Graduate School of ScienceKobe UniversityKobeJapan
  5. 5.Institute of Natural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HyogoHyogoJapan
  6. 6.Kiryu Nature SanctuaryKiryuJapan

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