Clonality by Incest: Hermaphroditic Self-Fertilization
Habitual self-fertilization by hermaphroditic individuals is a sexual route by which genetically identical individuals can arise. The phenomenon occurs in various plants and invertebrates but is known in only one vertebrate species: the mangrove killifish. Selfing is an extreme form of inbreeding (even less severe cases of which often result in inbreeding depression), and for this and other reasons constitutive self-fertilization is rare in the biological world. Instead, most selfing species also outcross occasionally, and thus have a mixed mating system. Habitual selfers nevertheless have some special adaptive advantages not shared by their sexual counterparts. This chapter compares population-genetic and ecological features of mangrove killifish with those of analogous plants and invertebrate animals that likewise have mixed-mating systems. Such species probably gain the best of two worlds by capitalizing jointly on the short-term advantages of selfing (fertilization assurance, and the propagation of fit “clonal” genoypes) and also the long-term as well as short-term advantages of outcrossing (genetic health and adaptability).
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