• Chamerion angustifolium;
  • deleterious mutation;
  • mixed mating;
  • purging;
  • self-fertilization;
  • serial inbreeding

Genome duplication resulting in polyploidy can have significant consequences for the evolution of mating systems. Most theory predicts that self-fertilization will be selectively favored in polyploids; however, many autopolyploids are outcrossing or mixed-mating. Here, we examine the hypothesis that the evolution of selfing is restricted in autopolyploids because the genetic cost of selfing (i.e., inbreeding depression) increases monotonically with successive generations of inbreeding. Using the herbaceous, autotetraploid plant Chamerion angustifolium, we generated populations with different inbreeding coefficients (F= 0, 0.17 and 0.36) through three consecutive generations of selfing and compared their magnitudes of inbreeding depression in a common environment. Mating system estimates for four natural populations confirmed that tetraploid selfing rates (sm= 0.25, SE = 0.02) are similar to those of diploids (sm= 0.12, SE = 0.12; F1,2= 1.34, P= 0.37) indicating that both cytotypes are predominantly outcrossing. Compared to an outbred control line, mean inbreeding depression for seed production, survival, and height (vegetative and total) in the inbred line differed among generations (inbreeding coefficients). Across all stages, inbreeding depression (relative to control) was positively related to generation (inbreeding coefficient). Although the initial costs of inbreeding in extant and newly synthesized polyploids may be low compared to diploids, the monotonic increase in inbreeding depression with repeated inbreeding may limit the extent to which selfing variants are favored.