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Inbreeding depression and the cost of inbreeding on seed germination

  • Jerry M. Baskin (a1) and Carol C. Baskin (a1) (a2)


We review the literature on effects of inbreeding depression (ID) on seed germination for 743 case studies of 233 species in 64 families. For 216 case studies, we also review the relationship between mass and germination in inbred vs. outbred seeds. Inbred seeds germinated equally well as outbred seeds in 51.1% of 743 case studies, but better than outbred seeds in only 8.1%. In c. 50.5% of 216 cases, mass of inbred seeds was equal to (38.0%) or larger than (12.5%) that of outbred seeds. The magnitude of ID spans most of the − 1 to +1 range for relative performance for germination of inbred vs. outbred seeds; in contrast to what might be expected, seed germinability often is not negatively correlated with the coefficient of inbreeding (F) or positively corrected with population genetic diversity; neither heterosis nor outbreeding depression for germination is common in crosses between populations; and ID in most endemics is low and does not differ from that of widespread congeners. Our results on the effects of ID on seed mass and germination do not agree with the limited number of comparisons Darwin (1876) made on the effects of selfing vs. outcrossing on these two life-history traits. Recommendations are made on how to improve dormancy breaking and germination procedures in order to make the results of studies on ID more relevant to the natural world.


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