Multigenerational effects of inbreeding in Cucurbita pepo ssp. texana (Cucurbitaceae)

C. Nelson Hayes, James A. Winsor, Andrew G. Stephenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The shape of the fitness function relating the decline in fitness with coefficient of inbreeding (f) can provide evidence concerning the genetic basis of inbreeding depression, but few studies have examined inbreeding depression across a range of f using noncultivated species. Futhermore, studies have rarely examined the effects of inbreeding depression in the maternal parent on offspring fitness. To estimate the shape of the fitness function, we examined the relationship between f and fitness across a range of f from 0.000 to 0.875 for components of both male and female fitness in Cucurbha pepo ssp. texana. Each measure of female fitness declined with f, including pistillate flower number, fruit number, seed number per fruit, seed mass per fruit, and percentage seed germination. Several aspects of male fitness also declined with f, including staminate flower number, pollen number per flower, and the number of days of flowering, although cumulative inbreeding depression was less severe for male (0.34) than for female function (0.39). Fitness tended to decline linearly with f between f = 0.00 and f = 0.75 for most traits and across cumulative lifetime fitness (mean = 0.66), suggesting that individual genes causing inbreeding depression are additive and the result of many alleles of small effect. However, most traits also showed a small reduction in inbreeding depression between f = 0.75 and f = 0.875, and evidence of purging or diminishing epistasis was found for in vitro pollen-tube growth rate. To examine inbreeding depression as a maternal effect, we performed outcross pollinations on f = 0.0 and f = 0.5 mothers and found that depression due to maternal inbreeding was 0.07, compared to 0.10 for offspring produced through one generation of selfing. In at least some families, maternal inbreeding reduced fruit number, seed number and mass, staminate flower number, pollen diameter, and pollen-tube growth rate. Collectively these results suggest that, while the fitness function appears to be largely linear for most traits, maternal effects may compound the effects of inbreeding depression in multigenerational studies, though this may be partially offset by purging or diminishing epistasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-286
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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