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Molecular sexing reveals ontogenetic shifts in sex ratios and underlying processes in a dioecious tree species
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  • Wei Lin,
  • Yonghua Zhang,
  • Simon Queenborough,
  • Ming Ni,
  • Qing He,
  • Bu-Hang Li,
  • Chengjin Chu
Wei Lin
Sun Yat-Sen University
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Yonghua Zhang
Wenzhou University
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Simon Queenborough
Yale University
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Ming Ni
Université de Sherbrooke
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Qing He
Sun Yat-sen University
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Bu-Hang Li
Sun Yat-sen University
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Chengjin Chu
Sun Yat-sen University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Most dioecious plants are trees. However, because of the difficulty in determining sex from vegetative morphology, previous investigations of the sex ratios of dioecious trees were limited to flowering individuals, leading to inadequate and potentially unreliable data on patterns of sex ratios and the underlying mechanisms driving their variation. Here, we applied sex-specific molecular markers to investigate the sex ratio of a fully mapped population of the dioecious tree Diospyros morrisiana (Ebenaceae) in a subtropical forest. We also investigated the sexual dimorphism of life-history traits and spatial association between male and female trees to determine potential processes shaping the sex ratio at different life stages. Molecular sexing revealed a female-biased population sex ratio for this D. morrisiana population, contrasting with the male-biased operational (i.e., flowering) sex ratio. The sex ratio of D. morrisiana shifted from female-biased to male-biased over older life stages. We found that reproduction had a larger impact on the growth of female trees, which may account for the ontogenetic shift in sex ratio. There was no evidence of spatial segregation of the sexes beyond a scale of 2 m. Through molecular sexing of all individuals across all life stages, our work revealed for the first time a shift from a female- to a male-biased sex ratio in a huge population of a dioecious tree species. To better understand variation in sex ratios and the underlying mechanisms in dioecious trees, the sex of non-flowering and juvenile individuals should be included in future studies.
19 Oct 2023Submitted to Molecular Ecology
21 Oct 2023Assigned to Editor
21 Oct 2023Submission Checks Completed
21 Oct 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
23 Oct 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned