Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 1171–1185 | Cite as

Life-history plasticity and inbreeding depression under mate limitation and predation risk: cumulative lifetime fitness dissected with a life table response experiment

  • Josh R. AuldEmail author
  • Rick A. Relyea
Original paper


Environmental effects on the evolution of mating systems are increasingly discussed, but we lack many examples of how environmental conditions affect the expression and consequences of alternative mating systems. Variation in mate availability sets up a trade-off between reproductive assurance and inbreeding depression, but the consequences of both mate limitation and inbreeding may depend on other environmental conditions. Predation risk is common under natural conditions, and known to affect allocation to reproduction, but we know little about the effects of isolation and inbreeding under predation risk. We reared selfed and outcrossed hermaphroditic freshwater snails (Physa acuta) in four environments (predator cues present or absent crossed with mating partners available or not) and quantified life-history traits and cumulative lifetime fitness. Our results confirm that isolation from mates can increase longevity and growth, resulting in higher lifetime fecundity. Thus, we observed no evidence for mate limitation of reproduction. However, reproduction under isolation (i.e., selfing) resulted in inbreeding depression, which should counteract the benefits of selfing. Inbreeding depression in fitness occurred in both predator and no-predator environments, but there was no overall change in inbreeding depression with predator cues. This represents, to our knowledge, the first empirical estimate of the effect of predation risk on inbreeding depression in an animal. Cumulative fitness was most influenced by early survival and especially early fecundity. As predation risk and inbreeding (both ancestral and due to a lack of mates) reduced early fecundity, these effect are predicted to have important contributions to population growth under natural conditions. Therefore life-history plasticity (e.g., delayed reproduction) is likely to be very important to overall fitness.


Age/size at first reproduction Delayed selfing Inducible defense Lifetime fecundity Longevity Waiting time 



We received funding from the Malacological Society of London (JRA), Unitas Malacologica (JRA), and Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology’s McKinley Research Grant (JRA), and the National Science Foundation (RAR). JRA was supported by fellowships from the A.W. Mellon Foundation and a post-doc from the French C.N.R.S. (awarded to P. David and A. Charmantier). We thank C. Cox, D. Jones, N. Schoeppner, and A. Stoler for help with the experiments. T.-L. Ashman, J. Escobar, M. Groner, P. Jarne, S. Kalisz, S. Tonsor, and several anonymous reviewers provided comments that improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10682_2010_9357_MOESM1_ESM.doc (470 kb)
(DOC 470 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)DurhamUSA

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