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Heredity (Edinb). 2005 Dec;95(6):437-43.

Genetic rescue in interconnected populations of small and large size of the self-incompatible Ranunculus reptans.

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Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Zürich, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland.


Small populations of our study species Ranunculus reptans have reduced fitness because of inbreeding, genetic load, and reduced mate availability; that is, they suffer from a three-fold genetic Allee effect. Here, we investigate how the effect of interpopulation outbreeding on offspring fitness depends on population size. We performed within- and between-population crosses with plants originating from 15 populations, and measured offspring performance in a common environment. Interpopulation outbreeding led to an increase in population means of clonal performance, which was defined as the number of rooted offspring rosettes produced per maternal ovule. This fitness gain mainly occurred at the life stage of seed set. It was especially pronounced for populations with a long-term history of small size inferred from their low genetic diversity, estimated from eight allozyme loci. We conclude that in a self-incompatible plant such as R. reptans, interpopulation outbreeding can lead to an immediate genetic rescue effect due to increased cross-compatibility and heterosis, and that this rescue effect is increased as population size decreases.

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