Resource allocation and seed size selection in perennial plants under pollen limitation

Qiaoqiao Huang, Martin Burd, Zhiwei Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Pollen limitation may affect resource allocation patterns in plants, but its role in the selection of seed size is not known. Using an evolutionarily stable strategy model of resource allocation in perennial iteroparous plants, we show that under density-independent population growth, pollen limitation (i.e., a reduction in ovule fertilization rate) should increase the optimal seed size. At any level of pollen limitation (including none), the optimal seed size maximizes the ratio of juvenile survival rate to the resource investment needed to produce one seed (including both ovule production and seed provisioning); that is, the optimum maximizes the fitness effect per unit cost. Seed investment may affect allocation to postbreeding adult survival. In our model, pollen limitation increases individual seed size but decreases overall reproductive allocation, so that pollen limitation should also increase the optimal allocation to postbreeding adult survival. Under density-dependent population growth, the optimal seed size is inversely proportional to ovule fertilization rate. However, pollen limitation does not affect the optimal allocation to postbreeding adult survival and ovule production. These results highlight the importance of allocation trade-offs in the effect pollen limitation has on the ecology and evolution of seed size and postbreeding adult survival in perennial plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-441
Number of pages12
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Adult survival
  • Diminishing return
  • Ovule production
  • Pollen limitation
  • Reproductive allocation
  • Seed size

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