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Group Pannell - Ecology and Evolution of Plant Sexual Systems.

Pannell lab overview

Current projects in the group are addressing a number of questions concerning evolutionary transitions between sexual systems and their implications for mating and resource allocation. Some of these are summarised under the project descriptions below. For further details, follow the links to the corresponding webpages of the postdocs or students concerned.


The lab benefits from interactions fostered by the Swiss Plants Sciences Web

Transitions between combined and separate sexes in Mercurialis annua

Several projects aim to explain and understand transitions between combined and separate sexes in the European annual plant Mercurialis annua, which displays dioecy (fully separate sexes), monoecy (self-fertile functional hermaphroditism) and androdioecy (the coexistence of males and hermaphrodites) and occasional male sterility.


Male (A), female (B) and monoecious (C) individuals of Mercurialis annua. Photos: J. Baker.

Using whole genome sequencing and transcriptomics analysis postdoc Katie Ridout (in collaboration with Dr. Dmitry Filatov at the University of Oxford) is assembling and annotating the sex chromosomes of Mercurialis annua in order to investigate the evolution of sex chromosomes and dioecy in Mercurialis. Using a combination of these tools, analysis of interspecific crosses, and natural selection experiments, PhD student Guillaume Cossard is attempting to further unravel the ecological and genetic factors responsible for sexual-system variation in the group. Postdoc Dr. Camille Roux is using Approximate Bayesian Computation to understand the order of key events that have been involved in the diversification of the group, notably sexual-system and ploidy transitions.


Diagrams depicting four of the many possible scenarios underlying genome duplication via autotetraploidy and subsequent diploidisation of the genome (the cessation of gene flow between homoleogous genomes). Tube width reflects population size. Approximate Bayesian Computation is being used to discriminate among these and other scenarios.

Evolutionary ecology of flower and inflorescence strategies under wind pollination

We are also using phenotypic variation in Mercurialis annua to test hypothesis concerning the evolution of inflorescence architecture and how it affects the population mating system. One study, conducted by postdoc Dr. Anne-Marie Labouche, considers the effects of pollen limitation and pollen competition on offspring number and quality as a function of plant density. Another, conducted by postdoc Dr. Luis Santos del Blanco, attempts to tease apart the effects of density and plant size on plant mating (selfing and outcrossing rates) under wind pollination. Luis is also using field and manipulative array experiments to understand the costs and benefits of different inflorescence architecture found across the species’ range.


Experimental arrays of wind-pollinated Mercurialis annua, in which distance from a pollen source regulates the intensity of pollen competition. Photo: A-M. Labouche

Transitions between nocturnal and diurnal pollination

Postdoc Dr. Anne-Marie Labouche is studying the characters that have diverged between the nocturnally pollinated Silene latifolia and diurnally pollinated Silene dioica. Nocturnal pollination would appear to be costly for S. latifolia, because the pollinator (Hadena bicruris) lays eggs in the flowers that hatch seed-eating caterpillars. By assessing the fitness costs and benefits in experimental hybrid populations, Marie is attempting to understand why an apparently maladaptive pollination syndrome is maintained.


Female flower of Silene latifolia being visited by Hadena bicruris. Photo : A-M. Labouche

Breakdown of self-incompatibility in Linaria cavanillesii

Self-incompatibility has been lost on numerous occasions in flowering plants. To contribute to our understanding of how and why this transition occurs, PhD student Marie Voillemot is using self-compatible and self-incompatible (SI) populations of the Spanish toadflax Linaria cavanillesii as a model. Commonly, when SI breaks down, plants evolved smaller, less rewarding flowers. Interestingly, this ‘selfing syndrome’ does not appear to have evolved in L. cavanillesii. The project aims to determine what might have caused this loss of SI, to ascertain its effect on the mating system and pollination biology, and to characterize the population genetic consequences at the locus causing SI and other loci across the genome.


Habitat of Linaria cavanillesii in southeastern Spain. Photo: J.R. Pannell

Maintenance of males with hermaphrodites in Fraxinus ornus

Over the last decade or so, my lab has contributed much that is known about how males can be maintained with hermaphrodites (the androdioecious sexual system), with substantial effort invested into understanding androdioecy in Mercurialis annua. We are currently also working on this sexual system in the Mediterranean tree Fraxinus ornus. In collaboration with Miguel Verdu at CSIC in Valencia, Spain, and PhD student Marie Voillemot, postdoc Dr. Alok Gupta is testing the hypothesis that differences in the fitness of male-sired and hermaphrodite-sired progeny in the Mediterranean tree Fraxinus ornus can be attributed to differences in paternally transmitted patterns of gene expression. Alok is also studying the evolution of sexual dimorphism in this species using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyze the scent volatiles from males and hermaphrodites in natural populations of F. ornus, followed by the use of next-generation sequencing to identify scent-related floral transcripts.



The lab group at a recent research and fondue away day on the top of Moléson.

2015 |  2014 |  2013 |  2012 |  2011 | 

Camille Roux, John R. Pannell, 01-2015. Inferring the mode of origin of polyploid species from next-generation sequence data. Molecular Ecology . [DOI]
Jaramillo-Correa J.P., Rodríguez-Quilón I., Grivet D., Lepoittevin C., Sebastiani F., Heuertz M., Garnier-Géré P.H., Alía R., Plomion C., Vendramin G.G. et al., 2015. Molecular Proxies for Climate Maladaptation in a Long-Lived Tree (Pinus pinaster Aiton, Pinaceae). Genetics 199(3) pp. 793-807. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pannell J.R., 2015. Evolution of the mating system in colonizing plants. Molecular Ecology . [DOI] [Pubmed]
Roux C., Pannell J.R., 2015. Inferring the mode of origin of polyploid species from next-generation sequence data. Molecular Ecology 24(5) pp. 1047-1059. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Santos-Del-Blanco L., Alía R., González-Martínez S.C., Sampedro L., Lario F., Climent J., 2015. Correlated genetic effects on reproduction define a domestication syndrome in a forest tree. Evolutionary Applications 8(4) pp. 403-410. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Alía R., Chambel R., Notivol E., Climent J., González-Martínez S.C., 2014. Environment-dependent microevolution in a Mediterranean pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton). BMC Evolutionary Biology 14 p. 200. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Fraïsse C., Roux C., Welch J.J., Bierne N., 2014. Gene-flow in a mosaic hybrid zone: is local introgression adaptive? Genetics 197(3) pp. 939-951. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Hernández-Serrano A., Verdú M., Santos-Del-Blanco L., Climent J., González-Martínez S.C., Pausas J.G., 2014. Heritability and quantitative genetic divergence of serotiny, a fire-persistence plant trait. Annals of Botany 114(3) pp. 571-577. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Jabbour F., Cossard G., Le Guilloux M., Sannier J., Nadot S., Damerval C., 2014. Specific duplication and dorsoventrally asymmetric expression patterns of Cycloidea-like genes in zygomorphic species of Ranunculaceae. PLoS One 9(4) pp. e95727. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pannell J.R., 2014. Leaf Mimicry: Chameleon-like Leaves in a Patagonian Vine. Current Biology 24(9) pp. R357-R359. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pannell J.R., Eppley S.M., Dorken M.E., Berjano R., 2014. Regional variation in sex ratios and sex allocation in androdioecious Mercurialis annua. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(7) pp. 1467-1477. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pinosio S., González-Martínez S.C., Bagnoli F., Cattonaro F., Grivet D., Marroni F., Lorenzo Z., Pausas J.G., Verdú M., Vendramin G.G., 2014. First insights into the transcriptome and development of new genomic tools of a widespread circum-Mediterranean tree species, Pinus halepensis Mill. Molecular Ecology Resources 14(4) pp. 846-856. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pujol B., Marrot P., Pannell J.R., 2014. A quantitative genetic signature of senescence in a short-lived perennial plant. Current Biology 24(7) pp. 744-747. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Romiguier J., Gayral P., Ballenghien M., Bernard A., Cahais V., Chenuil A., Chiari Y., Dernat R., Duret L., Faivre N. et al., 2014. Comparative population genomics in animals uncovers the determinants of genetic diversity. Nature 515(7526) pp. 261-263. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Roux C., Fraïsse C., Castric V., Vekemans X., Pogson G.H., Bierne N., 2014. Can we continue to neglect genomic variation in introgression rates when inferring the history of speciation? A case study in a Mytilus hybrid zone. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(8) pp. 1662-1675. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Santos del Blanco L., Climent J., 2014. Costs of female reproduction in a conifer tree: a whole-tree level assessment. Journal of Ecology 102(5) pp. 1310-1317. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Vizcaíno-Palomar N., Revuelta-Eugercios B., Zavala M.A., Alía R., González-Martínez S.C., 2014. The role of population origin and microenvironment in seedling emergence and early survival in Mediterranean maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton). PLoS One 9(10) pp. e109132. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Labouche A.M., Bernasconi G., 2013. Cost limitation through constrained oviposition site in a plant-pollinator/seed predator mutualism. Functional Ecology 27(2) pp. 509-521. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Pannell J.R., Fields P.D., 2013. Evolution in subdivided plant populations: concepts, recent advances and future directions. New Phytologist 201(2) pp. 417-432. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pannell J.R., Labouche A.M., 2013. The incidence and selection of multiple mating in plants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 368(1613) p. 20120051. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Ruch N., McCoy T., Grace O.M., 2013. The genus Aloe L. (Xanthorrhoeaceae) in Djibouti. Bradleya 31 pp. 15-24. [Web of Science]
Pannell J.R., 2012. Speciation genetics: reinforcement by shades and hues. Current Biology 22(9) pp. R299-R302. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pannell J.R., 2012. The ecology of plant populations: their dynamics, interactions and evolution. Annals of Botany 110(7) pp. 1351-1355. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Sanchez Vilas J., Pannell J.R., 2012. Do plants adjust their sex allocation and secondary sexual morphology in response to their neighbours? Annals of Botany 110(7) pp. 1471-1478. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Santos-del-Blanco L., Climent J., González-Martínez S.C., Pannell J.R., 2012. Genetic differentiation for size at first reproduction through male versus female functions in the widespread Mediterranean tree Pinus pinaster. Annals of Botany 110(7) pp. 1449-1460. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Hesse E, Pannell J.R., 2011. Sexual dimorphism in androdioecious Mercurialis annua, a wind-pollinated herb. International Journal of Plant Sciences 172(1) pp. 49-59. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Magalhaes I.S., Gleiser G., Labouche A.M., Bernasconi G., 2011. Comparative population genetic structure in a plant-pollinator/seed predator system. Molecular Ecology 20(22) pp. 4618-4630. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Moore J.C., Pannell J.R., 2011. Sexual selection in plants. Current Biology 21(5) pp. R176-R182. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Pfeiffer T., Roschanski A.M., Pannell J.R., Korbecka G., Schnittler M., 2011. Characterization of microsatellite loci and reliable genotyping in a polyploid plant, Mercurialis perennis (Euphorbiaceae). Journal of Heredity 102(4) pp. 479-488. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Sánchez Vilas J., Pannell J.R., 2011. Sex-differential herbivory in androdioecious Mercurialis annua. PLoS One 6(7) pp. e22083. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Sánchez Vilas J., Pannell J.R., 2011. Sexual dimorphism in resource acquisition and deployment: both size and timing matter. Annals of Botany 107(1) pp. 119-126. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]

Group leader

Master students

Visiting Researchers

Former Group Members

  • Dr. Regina Berjano
  • Dr. Richard J.A. Buggs
  • Dr. Gill Campbell
  • Dr. Marcel Dorken
  • Dr. Sarah M. Eppley
  • Dr. Alok Gupta
  • Dr. Mark Harris
  • Dr. Elze Hesse
  • Dr. Grazyna Korbecka
  • Dr. Juan-Carlos Lopez-Almansa
  • Dr. Jamie Moore
  • Dr. Darren Obbard
  • Dr. Benoit Pujol
  • Dr. Kate Ridout
  • Dr. Rebecca Ross
  • John Russell
  • Dr. Paul Rymer
  • Dr. Julia Sanchez-Vilas
  • Neil White
  • Dr. Shurong Zhou


John Pannell
Office room: 4320.1
Phone: +4121 692 41 70
Fax: +4121 692 42 65

Administrative assistant
Office room: 3106
Phone: +4121 692 4200
Fax: +4121 692 4265

Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne  - Switzerland  -  Tel. +41 21 692 41 60  -  Fax +41 21 692 41 65
Swiss University