Grazing and colony size development in Phaeocystis globosa (Prymnesiophyceae): the role of a chemical signal
In monoecious plants, gametes can be exchanged in three ways: among unrelated genets (outbreeding), with close relatives (inbreeding), or within individuals (geitonogamous selling). These different mating systems may have consequences for population demography and fitness. The experiment presented herein used artificial crosses to examine the mating system of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, USA eelgrass (Zostera marina L; Zosteraceae), a bisexual submerged aquatic plant that can outbreed, inbreed, and self. Genetic data indicate severe heterozygosity deficiencies and patchy genotype distribution in these beds, suggesting that plants therein reproduce primarily by vegetative propagation, autogamy, or geitonogamy. To clarify eelgrass reproductive strategies, flowers from three genetically and geographically distinct beds were hand-pollinated in outbred, inbred, and selfed matings. Fertilization success and seed production, life history stages which contribute greatly to the numeric maintenance of populations, were monitored. We found no evidence that inbreeding had negative consequences for seed production. On the contrary, selfed matings produced seeds significantly more frequently than outcrossed matings and produced significantly larger numbers of seeds than either inbred or outbred matings. These results contrast with patterns for eelgrass in other regions but might be expected for similar populations in which pollen limitation or a short reproductive season renders selfing advantageous.