Bateman's principles posit that male fitness varies more, and relies more on mate acquisition, than female fitness. While Bateman's principles should apply to any organism producing gametes of variable sizes, their application to plants is potentially complicated by the high levels of polyandry suspected for plants, and by variation in the spatial distribution of prospective mates. Here we quantify the intensity of sexual selection by classical Bateman metrics using two common gardens of the wind-pollinated dioecious plant Mercurialis annua. Consistent with Bateman's principles, males displayed significantly positive Bateman gradients (a regression of fitness on mate number), whereas the reproductive success of females was independent of their ability to access mates. A large part of male fitness was explained by their mate number, which in turn was associated with males' abilities to disperse pollen. Our results suggest that sexual selection can act in plant species in much the same way as in many animals, increasing the number of mates through traits that promote pollen dispersal.
Keywords: Bateman gradient; male–male competition; mating system; polyandry; sessile organisms.