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Maternal investment in egg size: environment- and population-specific effects on offspring performance


Geographic variation in maternal investment in offspring size can be adaptive if differences in investment translate into improved offspring performance in the given environments. We compared two moor frog, Rana arvalis, populations in the laboratory to test the hypothesis that investment in large eggs in populations originating from stressful (acid) environments improves offspring performance when reared in stressful (acid) conditions. We found that large initial size (hatchling mass) had moderate to strong, environment-dependent positive effects on larval and metamorphic traits in the acidic origin population, but only weak effects in the neutral origin population. Our results suggest that interactions between environmental conditions and initial size can be important determinants of individual performance, and that investment in large eggs is adaptive in acid environments. These findings emphasize the role of maternal effects as adaptations to environmental stress.

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We thank Karoliina Räsänen and Angeliina Alopaeus for invaluable help in the laboratory, Fredrik Söderman and Jobs-Karl Larsson for help with collecting the adults, and Niclas Kolm and two anonymous referees for valuable comments on the manuscript. The experiments were conducted with the permission of the Ethical Committee of Uppsala University and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. The study was financially supported by the Academy of Finland (A. L., J. M.), the Swedish Forestry and Agricultural Research Council, the Swedish Research Council (A. L., J. M.), the Zoological Foundation of Uppsala University and the Swedish Royal Academy of Science (K. R.).

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Correspondence to Katja Räsänen.

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Räsänen, K., Laurila, A. & Merilä, J. Maternal investment in egg size: environment- and population-specific effects on offspring performance. Oecologia 142, 546–553 (2005).

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  • Amphibians
  • Environmental stress
  • Larval life history
  • Local adaptation
  • Rana arvalis