Major transitions in the mating behaviour of plants

Plants display a spectacular range of sexual systems, mating strategies. In this talk, I will give a brief overview of this diversity, and will attempt to justify interpreting it in terms of strategies that have evolved to avoid inbreeding and promote outcrossing, and strategies that have evolved to optimize the use of limited resources for male versus female reproduction. I will also consider the influence of sexual selection and social structure on plant allocation decisions. The ideas will be illustrated by drawing on two recent studies in our lab, one involving the breakdown of separate sexes by experimental evolution, the other concerning the incomplete breakdown of self-incompatibility as an outcrossing mechanism. Our explorations will take us from genomes to metapopulations, and from Constantinople to Marrakech via the shores of Lake Geneva.


John did a BSc and Honours at the University of Sydney, on plant demography of dioecious plants (1990). Then, after a couple of years working in plant conservation ecology in Tasmania, he did a DPhil at the University of Oxford with Alan Grafen, on models and empirical study of sexual-systems evolution (1996). He then did postdocs with Spencer Barrett in Toronto, and with Brian and Deborah Charlesworth in Edinburgh, before returning to Oxford as a group leader (1999 - 2011). He moved to the University of Lausanne in 2011, where he is Professor of Plant Evolution in the Dept of Ecology and Evolution.