The expression of self-incompatibility in angiosperms is bimodal

Andrew R. Raduski, Elizabeth B. Haney, Boris Igić

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Self-incompatibility is expressed by nearly one-half of all angiosperms. A large proportion of the remaining species are self-compatible, and they either outcross using various contrivances or self-fertilize to some extent. Because of the common occurrence of populations and individuals with intermediate levels of self-incompatibility, categorization of the expression of self-incompatibility as an approximately binary trait has become controversial. We collect a widely reported index (index of self-incompatibility [ISI]) used to asses the strength and variation of self-incompatibility from over 1200 angiosperm taxa. Its distribution is bimodal and positively associated with outcrossing rate, albeit with a weak relationship within self-compatible taxa. A substantial fraction of species has intermediate mean values of ISI. Their occurrence can be caused by segregating ephemeral self-compatible mutations, averaging artifacts, and experimental biases, in addition to the often invoked stabilizing selection acting on the expression of self-incompatibility. Selection may also generally favor taxa with high ISI values through increased lineage birth and death rates, and it may counter lower level selection advantages within taxa expressing intermediate and low values of ISI. Such a null hypothesis is nearly universally overlooked, despite the fact that it could adequately explain the observed distribution of mating and breeding systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1283
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Breeding systems
  • Levels of selection
  • Mating systems
  • Outcrossing rate
  • Self-compatibility


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