Extremely long-lived stigmas allow extended cross-pollination opportunities in a high andean plant

Cristian Torres-Díaz, Susana Gómez-González, Gisela C. Stotz, Patricio Torres-Morales, Brayam Paredes, Matías Pérez-Millaqueo, Ernesto Gianoli

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47 Citations (Scopus)


High-elevation ecosystems are traditionally viewed as environments in which predominantly autogamous breeding systems should be selected because of the limited pollinator availability. Chaetanthera renifolia (Asteraceae) is an endemic monocarpic triennial herb restricted to a narrow altitudinal range within the high Andes of central Chile (3300-3500 m a.s.l.), just below the vegetation limit. This species displays one of the larger capitulum within the genus. Under the reproductive assurance hypothesis, and considering its short longevity (monocarpic triennial), an autogamous breeding system and low levels of pollen limitation would be predicted for C. renifolia. In contrast, considering its large floral size, a xenogamous breeding system, and significant levels of pollen limitation could be expected. In addition, the increased pollination probability hypothesis predicts prolonged stigma longevity for high alpine plants. We tested these alternative predictions by performing experimental crossings in the field to establish the breeding system and to measure the magnitude of pollen limitation in two populations of C. renifolia. In addition, we measured the stigma longevity in unpollinated and open pollinated capitula, and pollinator visitation rates in the field. We found low levels of self-compatibility and significant levels of pollen limitation in C. renifolia. Pollinator visitation rates were moderate (0.047-0.079 visits per capitulum per 30 min). Although pollinator visitation rate significantly differed between populations, they were not translated into differences in achene output. Finally, C. renifolia stigma longevity of unpollinated plants was extremely long and significantly higher than that of open pollinated plants (26.3±2.8 days vs. 10.1±2.2, respectively), which gives support to the increased pollination probability hypothesis for high-elevation flowering plants. Our results add to a growing number of studies that show that xenogamous breeding systems and mechanisms to increase pollination opportunities can be selected in high-elevation ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19497
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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