Predominance of outcrossing in Lymnaea stagnalis despite low apparent fitness costs of self-fertilization

J Evol Biol. 2007 May;20(3):901-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2007.01312.x.


We have quantified the natural mating system in eight populations of the simultaneously hermaphroditic aquatic snail Lymnaea stagnalis, and studied the ecological and genetic forces that may be directing mating system evolution in this species. We investigated whether the natural mating system can be explained by the availability of mates, by the differential survival of self- and cross-fertilized snails in nature, and by the effects of mating system on parental fecundity and early survival. The natural mating system of L. stagnalis was found to be predominantly cross-fertilizing. Density of snails in the populations had no relationship with the mating system, suggesting that outcrossing rates are not limited by mate availability at the population densities observed. Contrary to expectations for outcrossing species, we detected no evidence for inbreeding depression in survival in nature with inferential population genetic methods. Further, experimental manipulations of mating system in the laboratory revealed that self-fertilization had no effect on parental fecundity, and only minor effects on offspring survival. Predominance of cross-fertilization despite low apparent fitness costs of self-fertilization is at odds with the paradigm that high self-fertilization depression is necessary for maintenance of cross-fertilization in self-compatible hermaphrodites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Breeding
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Inbreeding
  • Lymnaea / physiology*
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*