Effects of abiotic factors on the expression of floral and gender traits have been well documented in wild plant species; by contrast, little is known of the effect(s) on an individual's floral phenotype of the genetic composition of its neighboring conspecifics. Here we report the results of a greenhouse experiment conducted to detect the effects of genetic attributes of an individual's local environment on the expression of floral traits in the selfing annual, Spergularia marina (Caryophyllaceae). First, to test the hypothesis that negative effects of intraspecific competition are stronger when an individual competes with genetically similar individuals than when it competes with unrelated genotypes, we evaluated the effects of the number of nearest-neighbor kin (vs. unrelated individuals) on floral traits. Plants adjacent to two kin produced significantly fewer stamens per flower than plants adjacent to one or no siblings, indicating that kin competition reduced allocation to male function. Second, to test the hypothesis that the genetic diversity of a neighborhood influences the phenotype of a focal plant, we determined whether the number of maternal families represented among an individual's nearest neighbors influences its phenotype. The number of maternal families surrounding a focal plant did not affect floral trait expression. These results suggest that in S. marina, male function is more sensitive than female function to the genetic environment and that as an individual's genetic similarity to its neighbors increases, so do the negative effects of competition for limited resources.
Vol. 56 • No. 12
Vol. 56 • No. 12