Inbreeding Depression and Inbreeding Avoidance in a Natural Population of Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)


Kimberly A. Hughes, Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4295, USA.


Maintenance of genetic variation in the face of strong natural selection is a long-standing problem in evolutionary biology. One of the most extreme examples of within-population variation is the polymorphic, genetically determined color pattern of male Trinidad guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Female mating preference for rare or novel patterns has been implicated as a factor in maintaining this variation. The origin of this preference is not understood, although inbreeding avoidance has been proposed as a mechanism. Inbreeding avoidance is advantageous when populations exhibit inbreeding depression and the opportunity for mating between relatives exists. To determine whether these conditions are met in a natural guppy population, we assessed mating and reproductive patterns using polymorphic molecular markers. Females produced more offspring with less-related males than with more-related ones. In addition, females were more likely to have mated with less-related males, but this trend was only marginally significant. Male heterozygosity was positively correlated with mating success and with the number of offspring sired, consistent with strong inbreeding depression for adult male fitness. These results provide substantial insight into mating patterns of a wild guppy population: strong inbreeding depression occurs, and individuals tend to avoid mating with relatives.