EEB Seminar Dec 10

Ecology and evolution of mate choice in wild plant populations

Presented by Dr. Catherine Rushworth

hosted by Friedman Lab

Dec 10th 12:30 – 1:30 pm ET

(email for Zoom link)

The choice of “who to mate with” has profound consequences for organisms and populations alike, determining not only phenotypes and trait expression within an individual, but the ecology, genetics, and evolutionary trajectories of populations and species. In plants, mate choice falls into a few main categories of reproductive modes, including preferential mating with oneself (self-fertilization), avoiding mating (asexual reproduction), or avoiding mating with different species. Mating habits thus shape patterns of genomic variation, gene flow, and speciation and are key to the astounding biological diversity that we see in the world. My research integrates field ecology, population genetics, and theory to address two main questions: 1) What are the ecological and genomic consequences of mate choice? and 2) How does mate choice influence speciation? I will present two stories of mate choice in wild plant populations. First, I explore the impacts of asexuality, hybridization, and self-fertilization on the evolution of sex in the North American wildflower Boechera. Second, I discuss a population genetic model that predicts the breakdown of reinforcement in wild maize and teosinte due to sexual conflict between a female mating barrier allele and a male compatibility allele. The interplay between these two phenomena highlights the tension between the costs and benefits of hybridization. My work shows how plant diversity is shaped by the influence of mating habits on both trait evolution and speciation, and future work will continue to explore the micro- and macroevolutionary consequences of mate choice. 

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