Susanne S. Renner, honorary professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, is the guest editor of a special theme issue of Philosophical Transactions B, an influential journal published by The Royal Society, the independent scientific academy of the United Kingdom.
Renner and collaborator Niels A. Müller of the Thünen Institute assembled and edited 15 papers that synthesize and challenge the current understanding of how plants achieve dioecy, or sexual specialization.
The separation of male and female function onto separate individuals has evolved many times and is the norm in higher animals where it is typically regulated by sex chromosomes. In land plants, such sexual specialization characterizes hops, wild grapes, cannabis, date palms, asparagus and many other crops and economically important trees, such as poplars.
The articles in the special issue, published March 21, deal with a broad set of species and topics such as analogies with animal sex determination systems, evolutionary pathways to dioecy, genetic consequences of dioecy and the longevity of the two sexes.