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From heterosis to outbreeding depression: genotype-by-environment interaction shifts hybrid fitness in opposite directions


Wang, Haolong
Su, Baofeng
Zhang, Ying
Shang, Mei
Li, Shangjia
Xing, De
Wang, Jinhai
Bern, Logan
Johnson, Andrew
Al-Armanazi, Jacob
Hasin, Tasnuba
Hettiarachchi, Darshika
Parrales, Abel Paladines
Dilawar, Hamza
Bruce, Timothy J
Dunham, Rex A
Wang, Xu


In F1 hybrids, phenotypic values are expected to be near the parental means under additive effects or close to one parent under dominance. However, F1 traits can fall outside the parental range, and outbreeding depression occurs when inferior fitness is observed in hybrids. Another possible outcome is heterosis, a phenomenon that interspecific hybrids or intraspecific crossbred F1s exhibit improved fitness compared to both parental species or strains. As an application of heterosis, hybrids between channel catfish females and blue catfish males are superior in feed conversion efficiency, carcass yield, and harvestability. Over twenty years of hybrid catfish production in experimental settings and farming practices generated abundant phenotypic data, making it an ideal system to investigate heterosis. In this study, we characterized fitness in terms of growth and survival longitudinally, revealing environment-dependent heterosis. In ponds, hybrids outgrow both parents due to an extra rapid growth phase of 2~4 months in year 2. This bimodal growth pattern is unique to F1 hybrids in pond culture environment only. In sharp contrast, the same genetic types cultured in tanks display outbreeding depression, where hybrids perform poorly, while channel catfish demonstrate superiority in growth throughout development. Our findings represent the first example, known to the authors, of opposite fitness shifts in response to environmental changes in interspecific vertebrate hybrids, suggesting a broader fitness landscape for F1 hybrids. Future genomic studies based on this experiment will help understand genome-environment interaction in shaping the F1 progeny fitness in the scenario of environment-dependent heterosis and outbreeding depression.