Inbreeding depression is the reduction in offspring fitness associated with inbreeding and is thought to be one of the primary forces selecting against the evolution of self-fertilization. Studies suggest that most inbreeding depression is caused by the expression of recessive deleterious alleles in homozygotes whose frequency increases as a result of self-fertilization or mating among relatives. This process leads to the selective elimination of deleterious alleles such that highly selfing species may show remarkably little inbreeding depression. Genome duplication (polyploidy) has also been hypothesized to influence levels of inbreeding depression, with polyploids expected to exhibit less inbreeding depression than diploids. We studied levels of inbreeding depression in allotetraploid and diploid species of Clarkia (Onagraceae) that vary in mating system (each cytotype was represented by an outcrossing and a selfing species). The outcrossing species exhibited more inbreeding depression than the selfing species for most fitness components and for two different measures of cumulative fitness. In contrast, though inbreeding depression was generally lower for the polyploid species than for the diploid species, the difference was statistically significant only for flower number and one of the two measures of cumulative fitness. Further, we detected no significant interaction between mating system and ploidy in determining inbreeding depression. In sum, our results suggest that a taxon's current mating system is more important than ploidy in influencing levels of inbreeding depression in natural populations of these annual plants.
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Vol. 62 • No. 5