Recent evidence has suggested that clades of dioecious angiosperms have fewer extant species on average than those of cosexual (hermaphroditic and monoecious) relatives. Reasons for the decrease in speciation rates and/or increase in extinction rates are only beginning to be investigated. One possibility is that dioecious species suffer a competitive disadvantage with cosexuals because only half of the individuals in a dioecious population are seed bearing. When only females produce seed, offspring will be more spatially clumped and will experience more local resource competition than when every individual produces seed. We examine two spatially explicit models to determine the effect of a reduction in seed dispersers on the invasibility and persistence of dioecious populations. Even though dioecious females were allowed to produce twice as many seeds as cosexuals, our results show that a reduction in the number of seed dispersers causes a decrease in the ability of dioecious progeny to find uninhabited sites, thus reducing persistence times. These results suggest that the maintenance of dioecy in the presence of hermaphroditic competitors requires a substantial increase in relative fitness and/or a large dispersal advantage of dioecious seeds.
Corresponding Editor: M. Morgan