We studied heterosis and outbreeding depression among immigrants and their descendants in a population of song sparrows on Mandarte Island, Canada. Using data spanning 19 generations, we compared survival, seasonal reproductive success, and lifetime reproductive success of immigrants, natives (birds with resident-hatched parents and grandparents), and their offspring (F1s, birds with an immigrant and a native parent, and F2s, birds with an immigrant grandparent and resident-hatched grandparent in each of their maternal and paternal lines). Lifetime reproductive success of immigrants was no worse than that of natives, but other measures of performance differed in several ways. Immigrant females laid later and showed a tendency to lay fewer clutches, but had relatively high success raising offspring per egg produced. The few immigrant males survived well but were less likely to breed than native males of the same age that were alive in the same year. Female F1s laid earlier than expected based on the average for immigrant and native females, and adult male F1s were more likely to breed than expected based on the average for immigrant and native males. The performance differences between immigrant and native females and between F1s and the average of immigrants and natives are consistent with the hypothesis that immigrants were disadvantaged by a lack of site experience and that immigrant offspring benefited from heterosis. However, we could not exclude the possibility that immigrants had a different strategy for optimizing reproductive success or that they experienced ecological compensation for life-history parameters. For example, the offspring of immigrants may have survived well because immigrants laid later and produced fewer clutches, thereby raising offspring during a period of milder climatic conditions. Although sample sizes were small, we found large performance differences between F1s and F2s, which suggested that either heterosis was associated with epistasis in F1s, that F2s experienced outbreeding depression, or that both phenomena occurred. These findings indicate that the performance of dispersers may be affected more by fine-scale genetic differentiation than previously assumed in this and comparable systems.
Corresponding Editor: H. L. Gibbs