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Oecologia. 2009 Jun;160(3):601-8. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1319-8. Epub 2009 Apr 8.

Maternal effects on phenotypic plasticity in larvae of the salamander Hynobius retardatus.

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  • 1Division of Life System Sciences, Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Maternal effects are widespread and influence a variety of traits, for example, life history strategies, mate choice, and capacity to avoid predation. Therefore, maternal effects may also influence phenotypic plasticity of offspring, but few studies have addressed the relationship between maternal effects and phenotypic plasticity of offspring. We examined the relationship between a maternally influenced trait (egg size) and the phenotypic plasticity of the induction rate of the broad-headed morph in the salamander Hynobius retardatus. The relationship between egg size and the induction of the broad-headed morph was tested across experimental crowding conditions (densities of low conspecifics, high conspecifics, and high heterospecific anuran), using eggs and larvae from eight natural populations with different larval densities of conspecifics and heterospecifics. The broad-headed morph has a large mouth that enables it to consume either conspecifics or heterospecifics, and this ability gives survival advantages over the normal morph. We have determined that there is phenotypic plasticity in development, as shown by an increase in the frequency of broad-headed morph in response to an increase in the density of conspecifics and heterospecifics. This reaction norm differed between populations. We also determined that the frequency of the broad-headed morph is affected by egg size in which larger egg size resulted in expression of the broad-headed morph. Furthermore, we determined that selection acting on the propensity to develop the broad-headed morph has produced a change in egg size. Lastly, we found that an increase in egg size alters the reaction norm to favor development of the broad-headed morph. For example, an equal change in experimental density produces a greater change in the frequency of the broad-headed morph in larvae developing from large eggs than it does in larvae developing from small eggs. Population differences in plasticity might be the results of differences in egg size between populations, which is caused by the adaptive integration of the plasticity and egg size. Phenotypic plasticity can not evolve independently of maternal effects.

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