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Identifying the fitness consequences of sex in complex natural environments

Cite this dataset

Rushworth, Catherine; Brandvain, Yaniv; Mitchell-Olds, Thomas (2020). Identifying the fitness consequences of sex in complex natural environments [Dataset]. Dryad.


In the natural world, sex prevails, despite its costs. While much effort has been dedicated to identifying the intrinsic costs of sex (e.g. the cost of males), few studies have identified the ecological fitness consequences of sex. Furthermore, correlated biological traits that differ between sexuals and asexuals may alter these costs, or even render the typical costs of sex irrelevant. We conducted a large-scale multi-site reciprocal transplant using multiple sexual and asexual genotypes of a native North American wildflower to show that sexual genotypes have reduced lifetime fitness, despite lower herbivory. We separated the effects of sex from those of hybridity, finding that over-winter survival is elevated in asexuals regardless of hybridity, but herbivores target hybrid asexuals more than non-hybrid asexual or sexual genotypes. Survival is lowest in homozygous sexual lineages, implicating inbreeding depression as a cost of sex. Our results show that the consequences of sex are shaped not just by sex itself, but by complex natural environments, correlated traits, and the identity and availability of mates.


Three datasets are included. The pollen viability dataset was collected in the greenhouse using methods outlined in the manuscript (buds collected at Stage 12 and stained for viability, followed by assessment of 100 grains of pollen visible on the slide). The field data was collected via field censuses conducted by a team of trained researchers. Plants were censused for maximum plant height, survival through the first winter and through a second winter, fruit number, and estimated total herbivory. Seeds were estimated from average seed set per genotype per garden and used to calculate the maximum number of seeds in the first growing season (see raw seed numbers in Rushworthetal_seedcounts). Plant width was measured at planting to include as a covariate.

Herbivory (or "plant damage") data has been manipulated. A small constant was added to each value and then this new value was log-transformed. The log-transformed value and the original value are in the dataset. 

Usage notes

Any missing values indicate that a plant either did not survive to census or that herbivory was not possible to census in a particular way (for example, that all leaves were missing at the time of first census, in which case leaf herbivory could not be measured). No other data values should be missing. 

Datasets have been uploaded as Excel documents so that a second tab could be included to explain the header names in each dataset. Please note that to use the R script, these datasets will need to be converted to csv files. All outlier removal, etc. is indicated in the accompanying R script. 

Please feel free to contact the corresponding author with any questions. 


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1311269

National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Award: R01 GM086496