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Evolution. 2013 Dec;67(12):3537-44. doi: 10.1111/evo.12210. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Constraints on the adult-offspring size relationship in protists.

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Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305.


The relationship between adult and offspring size is an important aspect of reproductive strategy. Although this filial relationship has been extensively examined in plants and animals, we currently lack comparable data for protists, whose strategies may differ due to the distinct ecological and physiological constraints on single-celled organisms. Here, we report measurements of adult and offspring sizes in 3888 species and subspecies of foraminifera, a class of large marine protists. Foraminifera exhibit a wide range of reproductive strategies; species of similar adult size may have offspring whose sizes vary 100-fold. Yet, a robust pattern emerges. The minimum (5th percentile), median, and maximum (95th percentile) offspring sizes exhibit a consistent pattern of increase with adult size independent of environmental change and taxonomic variation over the past 400 million years. The consistency of this pattern may arise from evolutionary optimization of the offspring size-fecundity trade-off and/or from cell-biological constraints that limit the range of reproductive strategies available to single-celled organisms. When compared with plants and animals, foraminifera extend the evidence that offspring size covaries with adult size across an additional five orders of magnitude in organism size.


Foraminifera; fusulinid; offspring size; proloculus; protist; reproductive strategy

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