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Open Access Research article

Sex-biased mortality associated with inbreeding in Drosophila melanogaster

Stephen P Robinson*, Leigh W Simmons and W Jason Kennington

Author Affiliations

Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology (M092), The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:51  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-51

Published: 17 March 2014

Abstract

Background

One proposed consequence of inbreeding is a skewed sex ratio arising from sex specific mortality in the homogametic sex caused by inbreeding on the sex chromosome. However, recent work suggests that random distortions in sex ratio due to autosomal inbreeding may be of greater importance. In this study, we investigate the effect of biologically realistic levels of inbreeding on sex ratio and sex specific mortality in Drosophila melanogaster. We use two pedigree crossing designs to either maximise or minimise inbreeding on the X-chromosome whilst producing identical autosomal inbreeding.

Results

We found increased female mortality and male biased sex ratios associated with inbreeding in our high, but not low, X-inbreeding pedigree. While our results are more consistent with being driven by inbreeding on the X-chromosome than on the autosomes, the marked difference between treatments does not fit closely the expectations of either model.

Conclusions

Our results are only partly consistent with the hypothesis that inbreeding on the X-chromosome can cause greater fitness reductions in the homogametic sex. Whilst the results of our study are not conclusive, they suggest that directional distortions in sex ratio due to inbreeding can occur, and highlight the need for further investigation on this topic.