We investigated the effects of inbreeding on various fitness components and their genetic load in laboratory metapopulations of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Six metapopulations each consisted of four subpopulations with breeding population sizes of N = 6 or N = 12 and migration rate of m = 0 or m = 0.33. Metapopulations were maintained for seven generations during which coancestries and pedigrees were established. Individual inbreeding coefficients at the F7 were calculated and ranged between 0.01 and 0.51. Even though considerable purging had occurred during inbreeding, the genetic load remained higher than that of many outbreeding species: approximately two lethal equivalents were detected for egg sterility, one for zygote survival, one for juvenile survival, and one for longevity. Severe inbreeding depression occurred after seven generations of inbreeding, which jeopardized the metapopulation survival. This finding suggests that the purging of genetic load by intentional inbreeding cannot be recommended for the genetic conservation of species with a high number of lethal equivalents.
Corresponding Editor: C. Boggs