The role of androdioecy and gynodioecy in mediating evolutionary transitions between dioecy and hermaphroditism in the animalia

Evolution. 2012 Dec;66(12):3670-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01714.x. Epub 2012 Jul 4.


Dioecy (gonochorism) is dominant within the Animalia, although a recent review suggests hermaphroditism is also common. Evolutionary transitions from dioecy to hermaphroditism (or vice versa) have occurred frequently in animals, but few studies suggest the advantage of such transitions. In particular, few studies assess how hermaphroditism evolves from dioecy or whether androdioecy or gynodioecy should be an "intermediate" stage, as noted in plants. Herein, these transitions are assessed by documenting the numbers of androdioecious and gynodioecious animals and inferring their ancestral reproductive mode. Both systems are rare, but androdioecy was an order of magnitude more common than gynodioecy. Transitions from dioecious ancestors were commonly to androdioecy rather than gynodioecy. Hermaphrodites evolving from sexually dimorphic dioecious ancestors appear to be constrained to those with female-biased sex allocation; such hermaphrodites replace females to coexist with males. Hermaphrodites evolving from sexually monomorphic dioecious ancestors were not similarly constrained. Species transitioning from hermaphroditic ancestors were more commonly androdioecious than gynodioecious, contrasting with similar transitions in plants. In animals, such transitions were associated with size specialization between the sexes, whereas in plants these transitions were to avoid inbreeding depression. Further research should frame these reproductive transitions in a theoretical context, similar to botanical studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Hermaphroditic Organisms*
  • Male