Flowers fertilized by multiple fathers may be expected to produce heavier seeds than those fertilized by a single father. However, the adaptive mechanisms leading to such differences remain unclear, and the evidence inconsistent. Here, we first review the different hypotheses predicting an increase in seed mass when multiple paternity occurs. We show that distinguishing between these hypotheses requires information about average seed mass, but also about within-fruit variance in seed mass, bias in siring success among pollen donors, and whether siring success and seed mass are correlated. We then report the results of an experiment on Dalechampia scandens (Euphorbiaceae), assessing these critical variables in conjunction with a comparison of seed mass resulting from crosses with single vs. multiple pollen donors. Siring success differed among males when competing for fertilization, but average seed mass was not affected by the number of fathers. Furthermore, paternal identity explained only 3.8% of the variance in seed mass, and siring success was not correlated with the mass of the seeds produced. Finally, within-infructescence variance in seed mass was not affected by the number of fathers. These results suggest that neither differential allocation nor sibling rivalry has any effect on the average mass of seeds in multiply sired fruits in D. scandens. Overall, the limited paternal effects observed in most studies and the possibility of diversification bet hedging among flowers (but not within flowers), suggest that multiple paternity within fruits or infructescence is unlikely to affect seed mass in a large number of angiosperm species.
|Date made available
|1 Jan 2015