Understanding the impact of spontaneous mutations on fitness has many theoretical and practical applications in biology. Although mutational effects on individual morphological or life-history characters have been measured in several classic genetic model systems, there are few estimates of the rate of decline due to mutation for complex fitness traits. Here, we estimate the effects of mutation on competitive ability, an important complex fitness trait, in a model system for ecological and evolutionary genomics, Daphnia. Competition assays were performed to compare fitness between mutation-accumulation (MA) lines and control lines from eight different genotypes from two populations of Daphnia pulicaria after 30 and 65 generations of mutation accumulation. Our results show a fitness decline among MA lines relative to controls as expected, but highlight the influence of genomic background on this effect. In addition, in some assays, MA lines outperform controls providing insight into the frequency of beneficial mutations.
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2012 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.