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Inbreeding and Outbreeding Depression in Natural Populations of Chamaecrista fasciculata (Fabaceae)

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The deleterious consequences of inbreeding have been well documented. There are, however, few empirical studies that have examined the consequences of restoring heterozygosity and hence the fitness of inbred populations by conducting interpopulation crosses and measuring the performance of later-generation hybrids under field conditions. We conducted interpopulation crosses of 100 m to 2000 km, which spans the range of Chamaecrista fasciculata ( Fabaceae) in eastern North America. We then contrasted the performance of the F1 and later-segregating F3 hybrids with the parental generation. We found almost universal F1 superiority over the parents. The F3 hybrids suffered a loss of fitness compared to the F1 hybrids. The drop off in fitness of the F3 reflects both the loss of heterozygosity and the disruption of coadapted gene complexes. The F3 performance, however, was still often equal to that of the parents, suggesting that heterosis can outweigh the loss of coadaptation except for the longest-distance crosses. In a subset of environments, the F3 performance of long-distance (≥1000 km) interpopulation crosses was less than that of both parents and indicated true outbreeding depression. For C. fasciculata, it appears that crossing populations of up to intermediate distances of hundreds of kilometers has a short-term beneficial effect on progeny performance through F1, and that longer-term effects are not necessarily disruptive of fitness, at least relative to parental performance. The degree of F1 heterosis and F3 outbreeding depression varied between site and year, however, indicating an important role for the environment in the expression of these effects.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, H. J. Patterson Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742–5815, U.S.A, and Botanisk Institutt, NTNU, Trondheim, N-7034, Norway, 2: Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903–2477, U.S.A.

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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