Extreme environments select for reproductive assurance: Evidence from evening primroses (oenothera)

Margaret E.K. Evans, David J. Hearn, Kathryn E. Theiss, Karen Cranston, Kent E. Holsinger, Michael J. Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Competing evolutionary forces shape plant breeding systems (e.g. inbreeding depression, reproductive assurance). Which of these forces prevails in a given population or species is predicted to depend upon such factors as life history, ecological conditions, and geographical context. Here, we examined two such predictions: that self-compatibility should be associated with the annual life history or extreme climatic conditions. We analyzed data from a clade of plants remarkable for variation in breeding system, life history and climatic conditions (Oenothera, sections Anogra and Kleinia, Onagraceae). We used a phylogenetic comparative approach and Bayesian or hybrid Bayesian tests to account for phylogenetic uncertainty. Geographic information system (GIS)-based climate data and ecological niche modeling allowed us to quantify climatic conditions. Breeding system and reproductive life span are not correlated in Anogra and Kleinia. Instead, self-compatibility is associated with the extremes of temperature in the coldest part of the year and precipitation in the driest part of the year. In the 60yr since this pattern was anticipated, this is the first demonstration of a relationship between the evolution of self-compatibility and climatic extremes. We discuss possible explanations for this pattern and possible implications with respect to anthropogenic climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-563
Number of pages9
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Baker's law
  • Climate
  • Evolution
  • Life history
  • Oenothera
  • Plant breeding system
  • Reproductive assurance
  • Self-compatibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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