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Data on the effects of inbreeding on fitness components are reviewed in the light of population genetic models of the possible genetic causes of inbreeding depression. Deleterious mutations probably play a major role in causing inbreeding depression. Putting together the different kinds of quantitative genetic data, it is difficult to account for the very large effects of inbreeding on fitness in Drosophila and outcrossing plants without a significant contribution from variability maintained by selection. Overdominant effects of alleles on fitness components seem not to be important in most cases. Recessive or partially recessive deleterious effects of alleles, some maintained by mutation pressure and some by balancing selection, thus seem to be the most important source of inbreeding depression. Possible experimental approaches to resolving outstanding questions are discussed.
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