Royal Society Publishing

Rapid spread of immigrant genomes into inbred populations

I. J. Saccheri, P. M. Brakefield


When local populations are genetically differentiated from one another and partially inbred, as typically occurs in subdivided populations, immigrant genomes are predicted to be at a frequency–dependent fitness advantage due to heterosis (hybrid vigour) in their descendants. We tested this prediction with pedigreed laboratory populations of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana and report here on a rapid increase over five generations in the contribution of an initially rare immigrant genome to the local population gene pool. The replicated experimental design, including immigrant controls, demonstrates that the mechanism underlying immigrant genome spread is heterosis, and that the advantage to the immigrant genes is sustained over several generations. Our result suggests that effective migration rates may often be much higher than the numbers of individual migrants assumed by classical population genetics models, with implications for the persistence and evolution of metapopulations.

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