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Evolution. 2006 May;60(5):1014-22.

Selection and inbreeding depression: effects of inbreeding rate and inbreeding environment.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio 43403, USA.


The magnitude of inbreeding depression in small populations may depend on the effectiveness with which natural selection purges deleterious recessive alleles from populations during inbreeding. The effectiveness of this purging process, however, may be influenced by the rate of inbreeding and the environment in which inbreeding occurs. Although some experimental studies have examined these factors individually, no study has examined their joint effect or potential interaction. In the present study, therefore, we performed an experiment in which 180 lineages of Drosophila melanogaster were inbred at slow and fast inbreeding rates within each of three inbreeding environments (benign, high temperature, and competitive). The fitness of all lineages was then measured in a common benign environment. Although slow inbreeding reduced inbreeding depression in lineages inbred under high temperature stress, a similar reduction was not observed with respect to the benign or competitive treatments. Overall, therefore, the effect of inbreeding rate was nonsignificant. The inbreeding environment, in contrast, had a larger and more consistent effect on inbreeding depression. Under both slow and fast rates of inbreeding, inbreeding depression was significantly reduced in lineages inbred in the presence of a competitor D. melanogaster strain. A similar reduction of inbreeding depression occurred in lineages inbred under high temperature stress at a slow inbreeding rate. Overall, our findings show that inbreeding depression is reduced when inbreeding takes place in a stressful environment, possibly due to more effective purging under such conditions.

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