Reproductive effort of Mastocarpus papillatus along the California coast.
Species with sexual and asexual life cycles may exhibit intraspecific differences in reproductive effort. The spatial separation of sexual and asexual lineages, called geographic parthenogenesis, is common in plants, animals, and algae. Mastocarpus papillatus is a well‐documented case of geographic parthenogenesis in which sexuals dominate southern populations, asexuals dominate northern popula‐tions, whereas mixed populations occur throughout central California. We quantified abundances and reproductive effort of sexual and asexual fronds and tetrasporophytes at eight sites in California to test the hypotheses that (1) reduced sexual reproduction at higher latitudes and tidal heights explains the observed geographic parthenogenesis and (2) reproductive effort (spore production per blade area) declines with increasing latitude. Abundances of all phases varied site‐specifically. However, there was no geographic pattern of reproductive effort of fronds. Reproductive effort of fronds was greater in 2006 than in 2007 and correlated with sea surface temperatures. Sexual fronds exhibited greater reproductive effort than did asexual fronds and sexual reproductive effort was also inversely correlated with local upwelling index. Tetrasporophytes showed greater repro‐ductive effort in northern sites, but total supply of tetraspores per m2 was greatest in the middle of the sampling range where crusts were more abundant. There was no decline of reproductive effort at higher latitudes. Geographic patterns of fecundity of life stages do not explain geographic parthe‐nogenesis in M. papillatus. Site‐specific differences in viability among spores or established thalli of different life cycles may explain their respective geographic distributions, as the sexual and asexual life cycles responded differently to environmental variations.