Inbred burying beetles suffer fitness costs from making poor decisions.
ABSTRACT: There is growing interest in how environmental conditions, such as resource availability, can modify the severity of inbreeding depression. However, little is known about whether inbreeding depression is also associated with differences in individual decision-making. For example, decisions about how many offspring to produce are often based upon the prevailing environmental conditions, such as resource availability, and getting these decisions wrong may have important fitness consequences for both parents and offspring. We tested for effects of inbreeding on individual decision-making in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, which uses the size of a carrion resource to make decisions about number of offspring. Both inbred and outbred females adjusted their initial decisions about number of eggs to lay based on carcass size. However, when we forced individuals to update this initial decision by providing them with a different-sized carcass partway through reproduction, inbred females failed to update their decision about how many larvae to cull. Consequently, inbred females reared too many larvae, resulting in negative fitness consequences in the form of smaller offspring and reduced female post-reproductive condition. Our study provides novel insights into the effects of inbreeding by showing that poor decision-making by inbred individuals can negatively affect fitness.
Project description:A maternal effect is a causal influence of the maternal phenotype on the offspring phenotype over and above any direct effects of genes. There is abundant evidence that maternal effects can have a major impact on offspring fitness. Yet, no previous study has investigated the potential role of maternal effects in influencing the severity of inbreeding depression in the offspring. Inbreeding depression is a reduction in the fitness of inbred offspring relative to outbred offspring. Here, we tested whether maternal effects due to body size alter the magnitude of inbreeding depression in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides We found that inbreeding depression in larval survival was more severe for offspring of large females than offspring of small females. This might be due to differences in how small and large females invest in an inbred brood because of their different prospects for future breeding opportunities. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence for a causal effect of the maternal phenotype on the severity of inbreeding depression in the offspring. In natural populations that are subject to inbreeding, maternal effects may drive variation in inbreeding depression and therefore contribute to variation in the strength and direction of selection for inbreeding avoidance.
Project description:Avoiding inbreeding, and therefore avoiding inbreeding depression in offspring fitness, is widely assumed to be adaptive in systems with biparental reproduction. However, inbreeding can also confer an inclusive fitness benefit stemming from increased relatedness between parents and inbred offspring. Whether or not inbreeding or avoiding inbreeding is adaptive therefore depends on a balance between inbreeding depression and increased parent-offspring relatedness. Existing models of biparental inbreeding predict threshold values of inbreeding depression above which males and females should avoid inbreeding, and predict sexual conflict over inbreeding because these thresholds diverge. However, these models implicitly assume that if a focal individual avoids inbreeding, then both it and its rejected relative will subsequently outbreed. We show that relaxing this assumption of reciprocal outbreeding, and the assumption that focal individuals are themselves outbred, can substantially alter the predicted thresholds for inbreeding avoidance for focal males. Specifically, the magnitude of inbreeding depression below which inbreeding increases a focal male's inclusive fitness increases with increasing depression in the offspring of a focal female and her alternative mate, and it decreases with increasing relatedness between a focal male and a focal female's alternative mate, thereby altering the predicted zone of sexual conflict. Furthermore, a focal male's inclusive fitness gain from avoiding inbreeding is reduced by indirect opportunity costs if his rejected relative breeds with another relative of his. By demonstrating that variation in relatedness and inbreeding can affect intra- and inter-sexual conflict over inbreeding, our models lead to novel predictions for family dynamics. Specifically, parent-offspring conflict over inbreeding might depend on the alternative mates of rejected relatives, and male-male competition over inbreeding might lead to mixed inbreeding strategies. Making testable quantitative predictions regarding inbreeding strategies occurring in nature will therefore require new models that explicitly capture variation in relatedness and inbreeding among interacting population members.
Project description:Inbreeding depression plays a significant role in evolutionary biology and ecology. However, we lack a clear understanding of the fitness consequences of inbreeding depression. Studies often focus on short-term effects of inbreeding in juvenile offspring, whereas inbreeding depression in adult traits and the interplay between inbreeding depression and age are rarely addressed. Inbreeding depression may increase with age and accelerate the decline in reproductive output in ageing individuals (reproductive senescence), which could be subject to sex-specific dynamics. We test this hypothesis with a longitudinal experimental study in a short-lived songbird. Adult inbred and outbred male and female canaries were paired in a 2 × 2 factorial design, and survival and annual reproductive performance were studied for 3 years. We found inbreeding depression in female egg-laying ability, male fertilization success and survival of both sexes. Annual reproductive success of both males and females declined when paired with an inbred partner independent of their own inbreeding status. This shows that inbreeding can have fitness costs in outbred individuals when they mate with an inbred individual. Further, inbred females showed faster reproductive senescence than outbred females, confirming that inbreeding depression and age can interact to affect fitness. By contrast, there was no evidence for an interaction between inbreeding depression and reproductive senescence in male fertilization success. Our findings highlight the importance of considering sex-specific effects and age to determine the full range of fitness consequences of inbreeding and demonstrate that inbreeding depression can accelerate reproductive senescence.
Project description:Stressful conditions experienced during early development can have deleterious effects on offspring morphology, physiology and behaviour. However, few studies have examined how developmental stress influences an individual's cognitive phenotype. Using a viviparous lizard, we show that the availability of food resources to a mother during gestation influences a key component of her offspring's cognitive phenotype: their decision-making. Offspring from females who experienced low resource availability during gestation did better in an anti-predatory task that relied on spatial associations to guide their decisions, whereas offspring from females who experienced high resource availability during gestation did better in a foraging task that relied on colour associations to inform their decisions. This shows that the prenatal environment can influence decision-making in animals, a cognitive trait with functional implications later in life.
Project description:PREMISE:Plant maternal effects on offspring phenotypes are well documented. However, little is known about how herbivory on maternal plants affects offspring fitness. Furthermore, while inbreeding is known to reduce plant reproductive output, previous studies have not explored whether and how such effects may extend across generations. Here, we addressed the transgenerational consequences of herbivory and maternal plant inbreeding on the reproduction of Solanum carolinense offspring. METHODS:Manduca sexta caterpillars were used to inflict weekly damage on inbred and outbred S. carolinense maternal plants. Cross-pollinations were performed by hand to produce seed from herbivore-damaged outbred plants, herbivore-damaged inbred plants, undamaged outbred plants, and undamaged inbred plants. The resulting seeds were grown in the greenhouse to assess emergence rate and flower production in the absence of herbivores. We also grew offspring in the field to examine reproductive output under natural conditions. RESULTS:We found transgenerational effects of herbivory and maternal plant inbreeding on seedling emergence and reproductive output. Offspring of herbivore-damaged plants had greater emergence, flowered earlier, and produced more flowers and seeds than offspring of undamaged plants. Offspring of outbred maternal plants also had greater seedling emergence and reproductive output than offspring of inbred maternal plants, even though all offspring were outbred. Moreover, the effects of maternal plant inbreeding were more severe when plant offspring were grown in field conditions. CONCLUSIONS:This study demonstrates that both herbivory and inbreeding have fitness consequences that extend across generations even in outbred progeny.
Project description:Extra-pair reproduction is widely hypothesized to allow females to avoid inbreeding with related socially paired males. Consequently, numerous field studies have tested the key predictions that extra-pair offspring are less inbred than females' alternative within-pair offspring, and that the probability of extra-pair reproduction increases with a female's relatedness to her socially paired male. However, such studies rarely measure inbreeding or relatedness sufficiently precisely to detect subtle effects, or consider biases stemming from failure to observe inbred offspring that die during early development. Analyses of multigenerational song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) pedigree data showed that most females had opportunity to increase or decrease the coefficient of inbreeding of their offspring through extra-pair reproduction with neighboring males. In practice, observed extra-pair offspring had lower inbreeding coefficients than females' within-pair offspring on average, while the probability of extra-pair reproduction increased substantially with the coefficient of kinship between a female and her socially paired male. However, simulations showed that such effects could simply reflect bias stemming from inbreeding depression in early offspring survival. The null hypothesis that extra-pair reproduction is random with respect to kinship therefore cannot be definitively rejected in song sparrows, and existing general evidence that females avoid inbreeding through extra-pair reproduction requires reevaluation given such biases.
Project description:Parental decisions in animals are often context-dependent and shaped by fitness trade-offs between parents and offspring. For example, the selection of breeding habitats can considerably impact the fitness of both offspring and parents, and therefore, parents should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of available options for their current and future reproductive success. Here, we show that resource-use preferences are shaped by a trade-off between parental effort and offspring safety in a tadpole-transporting frog. In a large-scale in situ experiment, we investigated decision strategies across an entire population of poison frogs that distribute their tadpoles across multiple water bodies. Pool use followed a dynamic and sequential selection process, and transportation became more efficient over time. Our results point to a complex suite of environmental variables that are considered during offspring deposition, which necessitates a highly dynamic and flexible decision-making process in tadpole-transporting frogs.
Project description:Inbreeding is a central topic in evolutionary biology and ecology and is of major concern for the conservation of endangered species. Yet, it remains challenging to comprehend the fitness consequences of inbreeding, because studies typically focus only on short-term effects on inbreeding in the offspring (e.g. survival until independence). However, there is no a priori reason to assume that inbreeding has no more effects in adulthood. Specifically, inbred males should have lower reproductive success than outbred males among other things because of inbreeding depression in attractiveness to females and a reduced lifespan. Such differences in future reproductive value should affect male mating behaviour, such that an inbred male of a given age should be more motivated to seize a current mating opportunity than an outbred male of the same age. We used an inventive experimental set-up that enabled us to assess male behaviour in relation to an apparent mating opportunity while excluding potential confounding effects of female preference. Age-, weight-, and size-matched inbred and outbred male canaries (Serinus canaria) were presented with a female that only one male at a time could access visually via a 'peephole' and thus when both males were equally interested in seizing the apparent mating opportunity this would result in contest. We find that inbred males spent more than twice as much time 'peeping' at the female than outbred males, suggesting that inbreeding indeed causes different behavioural responses to an apparent mating opportunity. Our study is among the first to highlight that inbreeding affects male mating behaviour, and therewith potentially male-male competition, which should be taken into account in order to understand the full range of inbreeding effects on fitness.
Project description:Extra-pair paternity (EPP) has been suggested to improve the genetic quality of offspring, but evidence has been equivocal. Benefits of EPP may be only available to specific individuals or under certain conditions. Red-winged fairy-wrens have extremely high levels of EPP, suggesting fitness benefits might be large and available to most individuals. Furthermore, extreme philopatry commonly leads to incestuous social pairings, so inbreeding avoidance may be an important selection pressure. Here, we quantified the fitness benefits of EPP under varying conditions and across life-stages. Extra-pair offspring (EPO) did not appear to have higher fitness than within-pair offspring (WPO), neither in poor years nor in the absence of helpers-at-the-nest. However, EPP was beneficial for closely related social pairs, because inbred WPO suffered an overall 75% reduction in fitness. Inbreeding depression was nonlinear and reduced nestling body condition, first year survival and reproductive success. Our comprehensive study indicates that EPP should be favored for the 17% of females paired incestuously, but cannot explain the widespread infidelity in this species. Furthermore, our finding that fitness benefits of EPP only become apparent for a small part of the population could potentially explain the apparent absence of fitness differences in population wide comparisons of EPO and WPO.
Project description:Understanding the effects of inbreeding and genetic drift within populations and hybridization between genetically differentiated populations is important for many basic and applied questions in ecology and evolutionary biology. The magnitudes and even the directions of these effects can be influenced by various factors, especially by the current and historical population size (i.e. inbreeding rate). Using Drosophila littoralis as a model species, we studied the effect of inbreeding rate over a range of inbreeding levels on (i) mean fitness of a population (relative to that of an outbred control population), (ii) within-population inbreeding depression (reduction in fitness of offspring from inbred versus random mating within a population) and (iii) heterosis (increase in fitness of offspring from interpopulation versus within-population random mating). Inbreeding rate was manipulated by using three population sizes (2, 10 and 40), and fitness was measured as offspring survival and fecundity. Fast inbreeding (smaller effective population size) resulted in greater reduction in population mean fitness than slow inbreeding, when populations were compared over similar inbreeding coefficients. Correspondingly, populations with faster inbreeding expressed more heterosis upon interpopulation hybridization. Inbreeding depression within the populations did not have a clear relationship with either the rate or the level of inbreeding.