Sources of variation in larval quality for free-spawning marine invertebrates: Egg size and the local sperm environment

Dustin J. Marshall, Michael J. Keough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


There has been growing interest in the effects of variation in larval quality on the post-larval performance of adult marine invertebrates. Variation in egg/larval size is an obvious source of variation in larval quality but sources of variation have received little attention. For broadcast spawners, larval size may vary according to the local sperm environment but the generality of this result is unclear. Here, we show that, for a solitary ascidian, a polychaete and an echinoid, larval size is affected by the concentration of sperm present during fertilization. Larvae that are produced at high sperm concentrations are smaller than larvae that are produced from eggs exposed to low sperm concentrations. We also show that for three ascidians and an asteroid, egg size increases with maternal body size. These differences in larval size are likely to affect larval and subsequent adult performance in the field. Given that sperm concentrations in the field can fluctuate widely, it is likely that larval quality in free-spawning marine invertebrates will also vary widely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalInvertebrate Reproduction and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Egg size
  • Fertilisation kinetics
  • Maternal effects

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