Inbreeding depression is a general phenomenon that is well documented in many plants and animals. Furthermore, it is generally considered to be the driving force behind mating-system evolution. Traditionally, the focus has been on the mean level of inbreeding depression in populations. However, more recently, the variation in inbreeding depression among individuals within populations has been shown to be influential in mating-system evolution. One set of theories predicts that genetic associations will develop between a mating-system locus and loci causing inbreeding depression, whereas another suggests either that no such association will occur or that it will be difficult to detect empirically. Here, we focus on variation in inbreeding depression among individuals and present empirical evidence of a genetic association between genes causing inbreeding depression and a floral trait influencing the mating system (i.e., selfing rate). We found a positive association between inbreeding depression and herkogamy (the degree to which the stigma and anthers are separated) in an annual plant, Gilia achilleifolia. These results are consistent with theory predicting that an individual's history of inbreeding will affect its level of inbreeding depression and highlight the potential importance of genetic associations between selfing-modifier traits and viability in mating-system evolution.
Corresponding Editor: K. Holsinger