It has been proposed that parasitic infections increase selection against inbred genotypes. We tested this hypothesis experimentally using pairs of selfed and outcrossed sibling lines of the freshwater crustacean Daphnia magna, which can be maintained clonally. We studied the performance of selfed relative to outcrossed sibling clones during repeated pairwise clonal competition in the presence and absence of two species of microsporidian parasites. In 13 of the 14 pairs, the selfed clones did worse than the outcrossed ones in the control treatment, but the presence of either parasite did not result in an overall increase in this difference. Rather, it decreased the performance of the selfed relative to the outcrossed sibling in some pairs and increased it in others. Moreover, the two parasite species did not have the same effect in a given pair. This indicates that, contrary to the hypothesis that parasites generally lead to a decreased performance of inbred genotypes, their effect may depend on the genetic background of the host as well as on the parasite species, and suggests that inbreeding can lead to reduced or increased resistance to parasites. Our findings also indicate that there is variation for specific resistance to different species of parasites in the metapopulation from which the hosts for this study were obtained.
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Vol. 57 • No. 4