Geographical variation in offspring size effects across generations

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Offspring size is thought to strongly affect offspring fitness and many studies have shown strong offspring size/fitness relationships in marine and terrestrial organisms. This relationship is strongly mitigated by local environmental conditions and the optimal offspring size that mothers should produce will vary among different environments. It is assumed that offspring size will consistently affect the same traits among populations but this assumption has not been tested. Here I use a common garden experiment to examine the effects of offspring size on subsequent performance for the marine bryozoan Bugula neritina using larvae from two very different populations. The local conditions at one population (Williamstown) favour early reproduction whereas the other population (Pt. Wilson) favours early growth. Despite being placed in the same habitat, the effects of parental larval size were extremely variable and crossed generations. For larvae from Williamstown, parental larval size positively affected initial colony growth and larval size in the next generation. For larvae from the other population, parental larval size positively affected colony fecundity and negatively affected larval size in the next generation. Traditionally, exogenous factors have been viewed as the sole source of variation in offspring size/ fitness relationship but these results show that endogenous factors (maternal source population) can also cause variation in this crucial relationship. It appears offspring size effects can be highly variable among populations and organisms can adapt to local conditions without changing the size of their offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-608
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005

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