The evolutionary dynamics of recessive or slightly dominant lethal mutations in partially self-fertilizing plants are analyzed using two models. In the identity-equilibrium model, lethals occur at a finite number of unlinked loci among which genotype frequencies are independent in mature plants. In the Kondrashov model, lethals occur at an infinite number of unlinked loci with identity disequilibrium produced by partial selfing. If the genomic mutation rate to (nearly) recessive lethal alleles is sufficiently high, such that the mean number of lethals (or lethal equivalents) per mature plant maintained at equilibrium under complete outcrossing exceeds 10, selective interference among loci creates a sharp discontinuity in the mean number of lethals maintained as a function of the selfing rate. Virtually no purging of the lethals occurs unless the selfing rate closely approaches or exceeds a threshold selfing rate, at which there is a precipitous drop in the mean number of lethals maintained. Identity disequilibrium lowers the threshold selfing rate by increasing the ratio of variance to mean number of lethals per plant, increasing the opportunity for selection. This theory helps to explain observations on plant species that display very high inbreeding depression despite intermediate selfing rates.
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