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Am Nat. 1997 Jul;150(1):48-72.

Reproductive strategies of marine benthic invertebrates revisited: facultative feeding by planktotrophic larvae.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.


Fecundity-time models of reproductive strategies in marine invertebrates all predict that reproductive success is maximized only at the extreme levels of investment. Selection should drive egg sizes toward small eggs and planktotrophy or large eggs and lecithotrophy. The existence of two distinct larval types, feeding and nonfeeding, has been taken as confirmation of this prediction and has established the current paradigm for larval ecology. However, comparative and experimental evidence does not support the prediction that egg size is minimized in species with planktotrophic larvae. Recent discoveries have documented the existence of planktotrophs that have intermediate egg sizes, differing degrees of dependence on exogenous food, and differing capacities for facultative feeding. A fecundity-time model is presented that includes facultative larval feeding by dissociating the onset of feeding capability from the need for exogenous food. The facultative feeding model shows that reproductive success can be maximized at intermediate levels of investment per offspring between the minimum for development and the threshold for lecithotrophy, depending on the amount of food available to larvae and the intensity of planktonic mortality. A continuum of larval strategies is predicted.

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