Evol Ecol Res 2: 29-40 (2000)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

The selection of social actions in families: III. Reproductively disabled individuals and organs

David G. Lloyd

Department of Plant and Microbial Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand



A wide variety of animals and plants produce a proportion of offspring that are partly or wholly sterile, or are fertile but sacrificed to sibs or mutualist partners, or are diverted to non-reproductive tasks. All these individuals with reduced or zero fitness can be described collectively as being ‘reproductively disabled’. Reproductively disabled individuals and organs have received little attention; nonetheless, they provide a challenge to selection theory that is parallel to that recognized by Darwin for sterile castes. In this paper, I examine a variety of disabilities, mostly in plants, and enquire as to whose fitness they benefit, and how. The results indicate, for the case of reproductively disabled individuals, that there is not much conflict between family participants. For the case of individuals disabled by their position on a parent, parental manipulation controls the event. The results also suggest that the level of self-incompatibility in plants is controlled by the pollen, and that in the development of endosperm there is little conflict between parents and offspring. The diversity of outcomes appears to stem in part from the degree to which parents must consider information transmitted by their offspring.

Keywords: disabled seeds, endosperm, feeding anthers, parent–offspring conflict, self-incompatibility, sterile castes, sterile pollen.

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