Complex offspring size effects: variations across life stages and between species

Mercier, Annie and Sun, Zhao and Hamel, Jean-François and Parrish, Christopher C. (2014) Complex offspring size effects: variations across life stages and between species. Ecology and Evolution, 5 (5). pp. 1117-1129. ISSN 2045-7758

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Classical optimality models of offspring size and number assume a monotonically increasing relationship between offspring size and performance. In aquatic organisms with complex life cycles, the size–performance function is particularly hard to grasp because measures of performance are varied and their relationships with size may not be consistent throughout early ontogeny. Here, we examine size effects in premetamorphic (larval) and postmetamorphic (juvenile) stages of brooding marine animals and show that they vary contextually in strength and direction during ontogeny and among species. Larger offspring of the sea anemone Urticina felina generally outperformed small siblings at the larval stage (i.e., greater settlement and survival rates under suboptimal conditions). However, results differed when analyses were conducted at the intrabrood versus across-brood levels, suggesting that the relationship between larval size and performance is mediated by parentage. At the juvenile stage (15 months), small offspring were less susceptible than large ones to predation by subadult nudibranchs and both sizes performed similarly when facing adult nudibranchs. In a sympatric species with a different life history (Aulactinia stella), all juveniles suffered similar predation rates by subadult nudibranchs, but smaller juveniles performed better (lower mortalities) when facing adult nudibranchs. Size differences in premetamorphic performance of U. felina were linked to total lipid contents of larvae, whereas size-specific predation of juvenile stages followed the general predictions of the optimal foraging strategy. These findings emphasize the challenge in gathering empirical support for a positive monotonic size–performance function in taxa that exhibit complex life cycles, which are dominant in the sea.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 11784
Additional Information: Memorial University Open Access Author's Fund
Keywords: Benthic environment, carry-over effect, cnidarian, life history, offspring performance, parental care, size–number trade-off, viviparity
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Ocean Sciences
Date: 14 February 2014
Date Type: Publication
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