Joint evolution of dispersal and inbreeding load

Genetics. 2006 May;173(1):497-509. doi: 10.1534/genetics.105.046847. Epub 2006 Mar 1.


Inbreeding avoidance is often invoked to explain observed patterns of dispersal, and theoretical models indeed point to a possibly important role. However, while inbreeding load is usually assumed constant in these models, it is actually bound to vary dynamically under the combined influences of mutation, drift, and selection and thus to evolve jointly with dispersal. Here we report the results of individual-based stochastic simulations allowing such a joint evolution. We show that strongly deleterious mutations should play no significant role, owing to the low genomic mutation rate for such mutations. Mildly deleterious mutations, by contrast, may create enough heterosis to affect the evolution of dispersal as an inbreeding-avoidance mechanism, but only provided that they are also strongly recessive. If slightly recessive, they will spread among demes and accumulate at the metapopulation level, thus contributing to mutational load, but not to heterosis. The resulting loss of viability may then combine with demographic stochasticity to promote population fluctuations, which foster indirect incentives for dispersal. Our simulations suggest that, under biologically realistic parameter values, deleterious mutations have a limited impact on the evolution of dispersal, which on average exceeds by only one-third the values expected from kin-competition avoidance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Demography
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Inbreeding*
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Time Factors