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Pollen and ovule fates and reproductive performance by flowering plants

Pollen and ovules experience diverse fates during pollination, pollen-tube growth, fertilization, and seed development, which govern the male and female potential of flowering plants. This chapter identifies these fates and many of their interactions, and considers their theoretical implications for the evolution of pollen export and the production of selfed and outcrossed seeds. This analysis clarifies the importance of pollen quantity and quality for seed production, including the opportunity for poor pollen quality to cause misidentification of pollen limitation. Our analysis emphasizes the asymmetry of pollen and ovule fates and considers its consequences for reproductive evolution. We also identify ovule limitation as a constraint on seed production, which has paradoxically not been recognized before, but is an implicit assumption of previous theoretical analysis of mating-system evolution. Ovule limitation increases the diversity of possible reproductive policies. In addition to ovule limitation, we consider the implications of pollen and resource limitation for the evolution of self- and cross-fertilization. Resource limitation occurs only if plants produce more ovules than they can mature into seeds, which allows a mixture of selfing and outcrossing to be an optimal mating system in some circumstances. The chance of mixed mating being optimal is eroded by trade-offs between self- and cross-pollination, but they do not alter the optimal combination of selfing and outcrossing, should mixed mating be favoured. Our analysis illustrates the key role played by interactions between genetic and ecological influences on reproductive performance in the evolution of plant reproduction.