Dataset for: The role of infectious disease in the evolution of females: evidence from anther-smut disease on a gynodioecious alpine carnation.

In flowering plants, the evolution of females is widely hypothesized to be the first step in the evolutionary pathway to separate male and female sexes, or dioecy. Natural enemies have the potential to drive this evolution if they preferentially attack hermaphrodites over females. We studied sex-based differences in exposure to anther-smut (<i>Microbotryum</i>), a sterilizing pollinator-transmitted disease, in <i>Dianthus pavonius</i>, a gynodioecious perennial herb. We found that within a heavily diseased population, females consistently had lower levels of <i>Microbotryum</i> spore deposition relative to hermaphrodites and that this is difference was driven by rapid floral closing in females following successful pollination. We further show that this protective closing behavior is frequency-dependent; females close faster when they are rare. These results indicate that anther-smut disease is an important source of selection for females, especially since we found in a common garden experiment no evidence that females have any inherent fecundity advantages over hermaphrodites. Finally, we show that among populations, those where anther-smut is present have a significantly higher frequency of females than those where the disease is absent. Taken together our results indicate that anther-smut disease is likely an important biotic factor driving the evolution and maintenance of females in this gynodioecious species.