Inbreeding depression is one of the main forces opposing the evolution of self-fertilization. Of central importance is the hypothesis that inbreeding depression and selfing coevolve antagonistically, generating either low selfing rate and high inbreeding depression or vice versa. However, there is limited evidence for this coevolution within species. We investigated this topic in the hermaphroditic snail Physa acuta. In this species, isolated individuals delay the onset of egg laying compared to individuals having access to mates. Longer delays (“waiting times”) indicate more intense selfing avoidance. We measured inbreeding depression and waiting time in a large quantitative-genetic experiment (281 outbred families derived from 26 natural populations). We observed large genetic variance for both traits and a strong positive genetic covariance between them, most of which resided within rather than among populations. It means that, within populations, individuals with higher mutation load avoided selfing more strongly on average. This genetic covariance may result from pleiotropy and/or linkage disequilibrium. Whatever its genetic architecture, the fact it emerges specifically when individuals are deprived of mates suggests it is not fortuitous and rather reflects the action of natural selection. We conclude that a diversity of mating strategies can arise within populations subjected to variation in inbreeding depression.
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Vol. 63 • No. 11