Effects of egg size on the development time of non-feeding larvae

Dustin Marshall, Toby Bolton

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The evolution of egg size in marine invertebrates remains a topic of central importance for life-history biologists, and the pioneering work of Vance has strongly influenced our current views. Vance s model and most models developed since have assumed that increases in egg Size result in an increase in the prefeeding period of marine invertebrate larvae. For lecithotrophic species, this means that the entire development period should be correlated with egg size. Despite the importance of this assumption, it has not been tested at the appropriate scale-within species. We investigated the effects of egg size on development time for three lecithotrophic species from two phyla: the ascidians Phallusia obesa and Ciona intestinalis, and the echinoid Heliocidaris erythrogramma. We found that within individual broods of eggs, larger eggs took longer than smaller eggs to develop or become metamorphically competent larvae. It has long been recognized that producing larger eggs decreases fecundity, but our results show that increasing egg size also carries the extra cost of an extended planktonic period during which mortality can occur. The substantial variation in egg sizes observed within broods may represent a bet-hedging strategy by which offspring with variable dispersal potentials are produced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6 - 11
Number of pages6
JournalBiological Bulletin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

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