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Sexual dimorphism and sex ratio bias in the dioecious willow Salix purpurea L.

By Fred E Gouker, Craig H Carlson, Junzhu Zou, Luke M Evans, Chase R. Crowell, Christine D. Smart, Stephen P DiFazio, Lawrence B Smart

Posted 06 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.05.026427

Premise : Sexual dimorphism in dioecious plant species is often not obvious or is absent. Dioecious species populations also often exhibit deviations from expected sex ratios. Previous studies on members of the Salicaceae family have shown strong, partial, and no sexual dimorphism. Some studies have shown sex-biased ratios in several Salix spp., however, S. purpurea has never been examined for evidence of sexual dimorphism or for the presence of sex-ratio bias, and therefore a comprehensive phenotypic study is needed to fill this knowledge gap. Methods : This study examined a suite of morphological, phenological, physiological and wood composition traits from multi-environment and multi-year replicated field trials in a diversity panel of unrelated S. purpurea accessions and in full-sib F1 and F2 families produced through controlled cross pollinations to test for sexual dimorphism and sex ratio bias. Key Results : Significant evidence of sexual dimorphism was found in vegetative traits with greater means for many traits in male genotypes compared to females across three populations of S. purpurea , measured across multiple years that were highly predictive of biomass yield. Male plants exhibited greater nitrogen accumulation under fertilizer amendment as measured by SPAD in the diversity panel, and males showed greater susceptibility to fungal infection by Melampsora spp in the F2 family. There were also consistent female-biased sex ratios in both the F1 and F2 families. Conclusions : These results provide the first evidence of sexual dimorphism in S. purpurea and also confirm the prevalence of female-biased sex ratios previously found in other Salix species.

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