The scope of Baker's law

John R. Pannell, Josh R. Auld, Yaniv Brandvain, Martin Burd, Jeremiah W. Busch, Pierre Olivier Cheptou, Jeffrey K. Conner, Emma E. Goldberg, Alannie Grace Grant, Dena L. Grossenbacher, Stephen M. Hovick, Boris Igic, Susan Kalisz, Theodora Petanidou, April M. Randle, Rafael Rubio de Casas, Anton Pauw, Jana C. Vamosi, Alice A. Winn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Baker's law refers to the tendency for species that establish on islands by long-distance dispersal to show an increased capacity for self-fertilization because of the advantage of self-compatibility when colonizing new habitat. Despite its intuitive appeal and broad empirical support, it has received substantial criticism over the years since it was proclaimed in the 1950s, not least because it seemed to be contradicted by the high frequency of dioecy on islands. Recent theoretical work has again questioned the generality and scope of Baker's law. Here, we attempt to discern where the idea is useful to apply and where it is not. We conclude that several of the perceived problems with Baker's law fall away when a narrower perspective is adopted on how it should be circumscribed. We emphasize that Baker's law should be read in terms of an enrichment of a capacity for uniparental reproduction in colonizing situations, rather than of high selfing rates. We suggest that Baker's law might be tested in four different contexts, which set the breadth of its scope: the colonization of oceanic islands, metapopulation dynamics with recurrent colonization, range expansions with recurrent colonization, and colonization through species invasions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)656-667
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 New Phytologist Trust.


  • Colonization
  • Invasive species
  • Mate limitation
  • Metapopulation
  • Pollinator limitation
  • Range expansion
  • Reproductive assurance


Dive into the research topics of 'The scope of Baker's law'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this