• Experimental inbreeding;
  • fitness;
  • herbivore resistance;
  • herbivory;
  • inbreeding depression;
  • outbreeding depression;
  • purging of genetic load


Inbreeding is common in plant populations and can affect plant fitness and resistance against herbivores. These effects are likely to depend on population history. In a greenhouse experiment with plants from 17 populations of Lychnis flos-cuculi, we studied the effects of experimental inbreeding on resistance and plant fitness. Depending on the levels of past herbivory and abiotic factors at the site of plant origin, we found either inbreeding or outbreeding depression in herbivore resistance. Furthermore, when not damaged experimentally by snail herbivores, plants from populations with higher heterozygosity suffered from inbreeding depression and those from populations with lower heterozygosity suffered from outbreeding depression. These effects of inbreeding and outbreeding were not apparent under experimental snail herbivory. We conclude that inbreeding effects on resistance and plant fitness depend on population history. Moreover, herbivory can mask inbreeding effects on plant fitness. Thus, understanding inbreeding effects on plant fitness requires studying multiple populations and considering population history and biotic interactions.