Effects of parental care on the magnitude of inbreeding depression: a meta-analysis in fishes

Charlotte Patterson, Natalie Pilakouta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inbreeding results from matings between relatives and often leads to a reduction in the fitness of inbred offspring, known as inbreeding depression. There is substantial variation in the magnitude of inbreeding depression among and within species, driven by differences in the biotic and abiotic environment. Recent studies in three species found that parental care has the potential to buffer against inbreeding depression in the offspring, but the generality of this pattern is still unknown. Here, we performed a meta-analysis to test whether variation in the magnitude of inbreeding depression is related to among-species differences in parental care in fishes. We synthesized 536 effect sizes across 56 studies and 18 species, spanning 47 years of research. We found that inbred offspring suffer a smaller reduction in fitness in species that provide biparental care than in species with uniparental or no care. By using a comparative approach, this study provides novel insights into the capacity of parental care to moderate inbreeding depression and suggests that these effects may currently be underappreciated. Considering the potential effects of parental care on inbreeding depression can help us understand why some species avoid inbreeding, whereas others tolerate or even prefer inbreeding, which has important implications for the maintenance of genetic variation within populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E50-E62
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
Early online date14 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Parental care
  • Inbreeding avoidance
  • Reproduction
  • Survival
  • Fitness
  • Fishes


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