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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Mar 28;97(7):3324-9.

Male-male competition magnifies inbreeding depression in wild house mice.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


The detrimental effects of inbreeding on vertebrates are well documented for early stages of the life cycle in the laboratory. However, the consequences of inbreeding on long-term survival and reproductive success (Darwinian fitness) are uncertain for vertebrates in the wild. Here, we report direct experimental evidence for vertebrates that competition increases the harmful effects of inbreeding on offspring survival and reproduction. We compared the fitness of inbred (from full-sib matings) and outbred wild house mice (Mus domesticus) in large, seminatural enclosures. Inbred males sired only one-fifth as many surviving offspring as outbred males because of their poor competitive ability and survivorship. In laboratory conditions, inbreeding had relatively minor effects on male reproductive success and no effect on survivorship. Seminatural conditions did not increase inbreeding depression for females, probably because females were not competing for any critical resources. The overall reduction in fitness from inbreeding was 57%, which is 4.5 times as great as previous estimates from the laboratory. These results have important implications for medicine, conservation, evolutionary biology, and functional genomics.

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