Dioecy is reported to be correlated with a number of ecological traits, including tropical distribution, woody growth form, plain flowers, and fleshy fruits. Previous analyses have concentrated on determining whether dioecy is more likely to evolve in lineages possessing these traits, rather than considering the speciation and extinction rates of dioecious lineages with certain combinations of traits. To address the association between species richness in dioecious lineages as a function of the ecological traits, we compared the evolutionary success (i.e., relative species richness) of dioecious focal lineages with that of their nondioecious sister groups. This test was repeated for the evolutionary success of randomly chosen nondioecious lineages (control lineages) compared with their nondioecious sister groups. If the possession of certain ecological traits enhances the evolutionary success of dioecious lineages, we predict an association between the presence of these traits and relative species richness in the former, but not latter, set of sister-group comparisons. Dioecious focal lineages with a higher number of these traits experienced higher evolutionary success in sister-group comparisons, whereas no trend was found for the control focal lineages. The increase in evolutionary success was especially true for dioecious focal lineages that had a tropical distribution or fleshy fruit. We discuss how these results provide strong support for differential evolutionary success theories for the correlations between dioecy and the ecological traits considered.
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