Male and female Silene latifolia plants differ in per-contact risk of infection by a sexually transmitted disease

O. Kaltz et Ja. Shykoff, Male and female Silene latifolia plants differ in per-contact risk of infection by a sexually transmitted disease, J ECOLOGY, 89(1), 2001, pp. 99-109
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Journal title
ISSN journal
0022-0477 → ACNP
Year of publication
99 - 109
SICI code
1 Behavioural, physiological or immunological constraints often render one sex more susceptible to parasites, thereby potentially generating sex-speci fic trade-offs between traits associated with infection risk and other life -history characters. 2 The fungal pathogen Microbotryum violaceum systemically infects the dioec ious plant Silene latifolia when pollinators deposit fungal spores on the f lowers of healthy plants. Male plants produce many short-lived flowers, whe reas females produce few flowers that remain connected with the plant after fertilization. We investigated how variation in flower production and flow er longevity affects the infection risk for males and females. 3 In glasshouse experiments, we varied the number of flowers inoculated (4 vs. 16 per plant) with spores and the time until these flowers were removed (1 or 2 days for both sexes, 14 days for females only). We also measured th e longevity of male flowers receiving simulated visits, with or without spo res, to test for an abscission response to visitation and/or contamination. In a field survey, we measured male and female disease prevalence in 17 na tural populations. 4 Varying the number of inoculated flowers did not affect infection probabi lity, but females retaining inoculated flowers for 14 days became diseased more often (20.0%) than did plants with flowers removed within 2 days (7.3% ). 5 Males that had dropped more inoculated flowers prematurely were more like ly to remain uninfected. Spore-bearing visits shortened male flower longevi ty (38.4 +/- 2.8 h) relative to non-spore visits (47.9 +/- 5.2 h). 6 Female field disease prevalence (19.7 +/- 3.5%) was higher than that of m ales (14.3 +/- 2.6%), especially in populations with a high disease inciden ce. 7 Continuing physical connection during fruit ripening appears to increase invasion time and thus the per-contact infection risk in females. This is c onsistent with higher female field prevalences, although other explanations , unrelated to disease transmission, are possible. These results illustrate how interactions between plant reproductive behaviour and pollinator activ ity may affect disease spread. Female mating behaviour may evolve towards l ower attractiveness to pollinators to minimize infectious contacts, while m ales can afford to be more promiscuous with an attractive, but disposable, floral display.