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Evolution. 2003 May;57(5):1121-32.

Evolutionary ecology of egg size and number in a seed beetle: genetic trade-off differs between environments.

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Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546-0091, USA.


In many organisms, large offspring have improved fitness over small offspring, and thus their size is under strong selection. However, due to a trade-off between offspring size and number, females producing larger offspring necessarily must produce fewer unless the total amount of reproductive effort is unlimited. Because differential gene expression among environments may affect genetic covariances among traits, it is important to consider environmental effects on the genetic relationships among traits. We compared the genetic relationships among egg size, lifetime fecundity, and female adult body mass (a trait linked to reproductive effort) in the seed beetle, Stator limbatus, between two environments (host-plant species Acacia greggii and Cercidium floridum). Genetic correlations among these traits were estimated through half-sib analysis, followed with artificial selection on egg size to observe the correlated responses of lifetime fecundity and female body mass. We found that the magnitude of the genetic trade-off between egg size and lifetime fecundity differed between environments--a strong trade-off was estimated when females laid eggs on C. floridum seeds, yet this trade-off was weak when females laid eggs on A. greggii seeds. Also differing between environments was the genetic correlation between egg size and female body mass-these traits were positively genetically correlated for egg size on A. greggii seeds, yet uncorrelated on C. floridum seeds. On A. greggii seeds, the evolution of egg size and traits linked to reproductive effort (such as female body mass) are not independent from each other as commonly assumed in life-history theory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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