Mating systems have profound effects on genetic diversity and compatibility. The convergent evolution of self-fertilization in three Caenorhabditis species provides a powerful lens to examine causes and consequences of mating system transitions. Among the selfers, C. tropicalis is the least genetically diverse and most afflicted by outbreeding depression. We generated a chromosomal-scale genome for C. tropicalis and surveyed global diversity. Population structure is very strong, and islands of extreme divergence punctuate a genomic background that is highly homogeneous around the globe. Outbreeding depression in the laboratory is caused largely by multiple Medea-like elements, genetically consistent with maternal toxin/zygotic antidote systems. Loci with Medea activity harbor novel and duplicated genes, and their activity is modified by mito-nuclear background. Segregating Medea elements dramatically reduce fitness, and simulations show that selfing limits their spread. Frequent selfing in C. tropicalis may therefore be a strategy to avoid Medea-mediated outbreeding depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)