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Evolution. 2006 Jul;60(7):1516-21.

Does size matter most? The effect of growth history on probabilistic reaction norm for salmon maturation.

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  • 1Hokkaido National Fisheries Research Institute, Fisheries Research Agency, 116 Katsurakoi, Kushiro 085-0802, Japan.


Body size is widely believed to affect the occurrence of sexual maturation. Recent studies have used changes in the age-specific body size at which the probability of maturing is 50%, a feature of probabilistic reaction norms, to quantify purported evolution of life histories. However, body size results from a combination of growth rates during successive developmental stages. Therefore, to understand the evolution of the maturation schedule, it is necessary to comprehend the relationships among body size, growth history, and maturation schedule. We examined the relationships among body size, previous growth history, and maturation probability in chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta). In this study, previous growth history was estimated from yearly specific growth increments that provide information describing body size. Previous growth history was found to be more closely linked to maturation probability than body size. The most recent growth condition was the most important factor affecting whether a fish matured during the subsequent breeding season. Because individuals of similar body size and same age can have different growth histories, the relationship between body size and maturation probability could be plastically modified by growth history. This may violate an assumption required to infer evolution, namely that size-related maturation trends in probabilistic reaction norms are immune to growth history.

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