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Keywords:

  • Heterozygosity;
  • inbreeding;
  • Kryptolebias marmoratus;
  • mixed mating;
  • parasites;
  • self-fertilization

Mixed-mating strategies (i.e., intermediate levels of self-fertilization and outcrossing in hermaphrodites) are relatively common in plants and animals, but why self-fertilization (selfing) rates vary so much in nature has proved difficult to explain. We tested the hypothesis that parasites help maintain mixed-mating using a partially selfing fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) as a model. We show that outcrossed progeny in the wild are genetically more diverse and less susceptible to multiple parasite infections than their selfed counterparts. Given that outcrossing in K. marmoratus can only be attained by male-hermaphrodite matings, our data provide an explanation for the coexistence of males and hermaphrodites in androdioecious species where hermaphrodites are unable to outcross among themselves. Moreover, our study provides evidence that parasites contribute to maintaining mixed-mating in a natural animal population.