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J Anim Ecol. 2007 Jan;76(1):174-82.

Maternal condition influences phenotypic selection on offspring.

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Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Marine Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.


1. Environmentally induced maternal effects are known to affect offspring phenotype, and as a result, the dynamics and evolution of populations across a wide range of taxa. 2. In a field experiment, we manipulated maternal condition by altering food availability, a key factor influencing maternal energy allocation to offspring. We then examined how maternal condition at the time of gametogenesis affects the relationships among early life-history traits and survivorship during early development of the coral reef fish Pomacentrus amboinensis. 3. Maternal condition did not affect the number of embryos that hatched or the number of hatchlings surviving to a set time. 4. We found no significant difference in egg size in relation to the maternal physiological state. However, eggs spawned by supplemented mothers were provisioned with greater energy reserves (yolk-sac and oil globule size) than nonsupplemented counterparts, suggesting that provision of energy reserves rather than egg size more closely reflected the maternal environment. 5. Among offspring originating from supplemented mothers, those with larger yolk-sacs were more likely to successfully hatch and survive for longer periods after hatching. However, among offspring from nonsupplemented mothers, yolk-sac size was either inconsequential to survival or offspring with smaller yolk-sac sizes were favoured. Mothers appear to influence the physiological capacity of their progeny and in turn the efficiency of individual offspring to utilize endogenous reserves. 6. In summary, our results show that the maternal environment influences the relationship between offspring characteristics and survival and suggest that energy-driven selective mechanisms may operate to determine progeny viability.

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