Indexed on: 14 Jul '18Published on: 14 Jul '18Published in: Evolution
Selfing species are prone to extinction, possibly because highly selfing populations can suffer from a continuous accumulation of deleterious mutations, a process analogous to Muller's ratchet in asexual populations. However, current theory provides little insight into which types of genes are most likely to accumulate deleterious alleles and what environmental circumstances may accelerate genomic degradation. Here we investigate temporal changes in the environment that cause fluctuations in the strength of purifying selection. We simulate selfing populations with genomes containing a mixture of loci experiencing constant selection and loci experiencing selection that fluctuates in strength (but not direction). Even when both types of loci experience the same average strength of selection, loci under fluctuating selection contribute disproportionately more to deleterious mutation accumulation. Moreover, the presence of loci experiencing fluctuating selection in the genome increases the deleterious fixation rate at loci under constant selection; under most realistic scenarios this effect of linked selection can be attributed to a reduction in N . Fluctuating selection is particularly injurious when selective environments are strongly autocorrelated over time and when selection is concentrated into rare bouts of strong selection. These results imply that loci under fluctuating selection are likely important drivers of extinction in selfing species. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.