Source population characteristics affect heterosis following genetic rescue of fragmented plant populations

Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 7;280(1750):20122058. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2058.


Understanding the relative importance of heterosis and outbreeding depression over multiple generations is a key question in evolutionary biology and is essential for identifying appropriate genetic sources for population and ecosystem restoration. Here we use 2455 experimental crosses between 12 population pairs of the rare perennial plant Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides (Asteraceae) to investigate the multi-generational (F(1), F(2), F(3)) fitness outcomes of inter-population hybridization. We detected no evidence of outbreeding depression, with inter-population hybrids and backcrosses showing either similar fitness or significant heterosis for fitness components across the three generations. Variation in heterosis among population pairs was best explained by characteristics of the foreign source or home population, and was greatest when the source population was large, with high genetic diversity and low inbreeding, and the home population was small and inbred. Our results indicate that the primary consideration for maximizing progeny fitness following population augmentation or restoration is the use of seed from large, genetically diverse populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asteraceae / genetics*
  • Australia
  • Environment
  • Genetic Fitness*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Geography
  • Hybrid Vigor*
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Inbreeding*
  • Population Density
  • Reproduction