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Effects of size at metamorphosis on stonefly fecundity, longevity, and reproductive success

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Many organisms with complex life cycles show considerable variation in size and timing at metamorphosis. Adult males of Megarcyssignata (Plecoptera: Perlodidae) are significantly smaller than females and emerge before females (protandry) from two western Colorado streams. During summer 1992 stoneflies from a trout stream emerged earlier in the season and at larger sizes than those from a colder fishless stream, and size at metamorphosis did not change over the emergence period in either stream. We performed two experiments to determine whether variation in size at metamorphosis affected the fecundity, reproductive success and longevity of individuals of this stonefly species and if total lifetime fecundity was affected by the number of matings. In the first experiment, total lifetime fecundity (eggs oviposited) was determined for adult females held in small plastic cages in the field. Males were removed after one copulation, or pairs were left together for life and allowed to multiply mate. Most copulations occurred in the first few days of the experiment. Females in treatments allowing multiple matings had significantly lower total lifetime fecundity and shorter adult longevity than females that only mated once. Multiple matings also reduced longevity of males. Fecundity increased significantly with female body mass at emergence, but only for females that mated once. While multiple matings eliminated the fecundity advantage of large female body size, number of matings did not affect the significant positive relationship between body mass at metamorphosis and longevity of males or females. In a second experiment designed to determine if body mass at emergence affected male mating success, we placed one large and one small male Megarcys in an observation arena containing one female and recorded which male obtained the first mating. The large and the small male had equal probabilities of copulating with the female. Copulations usually lasted all night, and the unmated male made frequent, but unsuccessful attempts to take over the copulating female. Our data suggest that selection pressures determining body size at metamorphosis may operate independently on males and females, resulting in evolution of sexual size dimorphism, protandry, and mating early in the adult stage. We emphasize the importance of interpreting the fitness consequences of larval growth and development on the timing of and size at metamorphosis in the context of the complete life cycle.

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Received: 1 July 1997 / Accepted: 12 November 1997

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Taylor, B., Anderson, C. & Peckarsky, B. Effects of size at metamorphosis on stonefly fecundity, longevity, and reproductive success. Oecologia 114, 494–502 (1998).

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  • Key words Drumming
  • Protandry
  • Sexual size dimorphism
  • Size at metamorphosis
  • Total lifetime fecundity