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Keywords:

  • burying beetle;
  • hatching success;
  • inbreeding depression;
  • intergenerational effects;
  • offspring survival;
  • parental care

Abstract

Inbreeding depression is the reduction in fitness caused by mating between related individuals. Inbreeding is expected to cause a reduction in offspring fitness when the offspring themselves are inbred, but outbred individuals may also suffer a reduction in fitness when they depend on care from inbred parents. At present, little is known about the significance of such intergenerational effects of inbreeding. Here, we report two experiments on the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, an insect with elaborate parental care, in which we investigated inbreeding depression in offspring when either the offspring themselves or their parents were inbred. We found substantial inbreeding depression when offspring were inbred, including reductions in hatching success of inbred eggs and survival of inbred offspring. We also found substantial inbreeding depression when parents were inbred, including reductions in hatching success of eggs produced by inbred parents and survival of outbred offspring that received care from inbred parents. Our results suggest that intergenerational effects of inbreeding can have substantial fitness costs to offspring, and that future studies need to incorporate such costs to obtain accurate estimates of inbreeding depression.