The study of mating is one of the most active areas in evolutionary ecology. What fuels this research is curiosity about a stunning diversity of ways in which zygotes are formed. Many plants and some animals can reproduce without combining gametes. Many other plants combine gametes but do so within the same individual (selfing). Still other plants and animals require a gamete from another individual to stimulate reproduction but do not incorporate the genetic material contained in that gamete in the offspring. Finally, many organisms combine gametes produced from different individuals in sexual reproduction, but the ways in which these individuals get together to reproduce are also amazingly diverse and have major implications for how selection acts in these populations. Why are there so many different ways to reproduce? Answering this question is a major challenge for evolutionary ecologists. Our approach begins with how a variety of ecological factors affect selection on reproductive traits. Because many reproductive traits show genetic variation, diversity in selective pressures can lead to a diversity of evolutionary changes. Thus, understanding the evolutionary ecology of mating systems can help to interpret the significance of this variation and can provide new insight into related phenomena. For example, costs of female reproduction associated with development of offspring greatly impact other aspects of the life history, and males are often limited by mates (Savalli, this volume). Factors such as levels of selfing, inbreeding depression, and allocation of resources play a part in mating systems of both plants and animals (Waser and Williams, this volume), and sex allocation theory has been used in both plants and animals to explore the evolution of hermaphroditism and unisexuality (Campbell 2000; Orzack, this volume). This chapter explores some of the major forces affecting mating systems. Our treatments of plants and animals differ in emphasis, but our goal is to use the perspective of evolutionary ecology to define more fully the similarities, differences, and diversity in plant and animal mating systems, and to highlight potentially interesting yet currently unanswered questions. Diversity in patterns of zygote production arises in part from ecological factors influencing two issues: selection on the evolution of sexual reproduction itself and differentiation of the sexes.
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