Solanum section Leptostemonum is an ideal lineage to test the theoretical framework regarding proposed evolutionary benefits of outcrossing sexual systems in comparison to cosexuality. Theoretically, non-cosexual taxa should support more genetic diversity within populations, experience less inbreeding, and have less genetic structure due to a restricted ability to self-fertilize. However, many confounding factors present challenges for a confident inference that inherent differences in sexual systems influence observed genetic patterns among populations. This study provides a foundational baseline of the population genetics of several species of different sexual systems with the aim of generating hypotheses of any factor—including sexual system—that influences genetic patterns. Importantly, results indicate that dioecious S. asymmetriphyllum maintains less genetic structure and greater admixture among populations than cosexual S. raphiotes at the same three locations where they co-occur. This suggests that when certain conditions are met, the evolution of dioecy may have proceeded as a means to avoid genetic consequences of self-compatibility and may support hypotheses of benefits gained through differential resource allocation partitioned across sexes. Arguably, the most significant finding of this study is that all taxa are strongly inbred, possibly reflective of a shared response to recent climate shifts, such as the increased frequency and intensity of the region’s fire regime.
Cantley JT, Jordon-Thaden IE, Roche MD, Hayes D, Kate S, Martine CT. 2023. A Foundational Population Genetics Investigation of the Sexual Systems of Solanum (Solanaceae) in the Australian Monsoon Tropics Suggests Dioecious Taxa May Benefit from Increased Genetic Admixture via Obligate Outcrossing. Plants 12(11):2200. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12112200