Epiphytic dwarf males on the females present a possible solution to the problem of short fertilization distances in mosses. However, leptokurtic spore dispersal makes dwarf males likely to be closely related to their host shoot, with an accompanying risk of inbreeding. The capacity of a female to harbour a high number of different dwarf males suggests that there may be mechanisms in place that counteract inbreeding, such as polyandry and post-fertilization selection. We have genotyped sporophytes, female host shoots and dwarf males in four populations of the moss Homalothecium lutescens. We found no evidence of selective sporophyte abortion based on level of heterozygosity. The occurrence of entirely homozygous sporophytes together with significantly positive inbreeding coefficients in three of the populations (mean FIS between 0.48 and 0.64) suggest frequent mother-son mating events. However, 23% of all sampled sporophytes had a higher level of heterozygosity compared with the mean expected heterozygosity at the population level. Polyandry was frequent, on average 59% of the sporophytes on a female shoot were sired by distinct fathers. In conclusion, sporadic fertilizations by dwarf males originating from nonhost female shoots appear to counteract strong inbreeding.Heredity advance online publication, 2 September 2015; doi:10.1038/hdy.2015.79.
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