How to put all your eggs in one basket: Empirical patterns of offspring provisioning throughout a mother's lifetime

Stewart J. Plaistow*, James J. H. St Clair, Jane Grant, Tim G. Benton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Maternal effects arise when a mother's phenotype or the environment she experiences influences the phenotype of her progeny. Most studies of adaptive maternal effects are a "snapshot" of a mother's lifetime offspring provisioning and do not generally consider the effects of earlier siblings on those produced later. Here we show that in soil mites, offspring provisioning strategies are dynamic, changing from an emphasis on egg number in young females to egg size in older females. This pattern may be adaptive if it increases the survival of younger offspring that must compete with older, larger siblings. The dynamic shift in egg provisioning was greater in high-food environments in which females lived longer, creating increasing asymmetry in offspring competitive abilities. Females reared in isolation and in the presence of a high-density colony had identical provisioning strategies, suggesting that, unlike males in this species, females do not use pheromones to assess colony size. Our findings suggest that the adaptive significance of maternal effects may be misinterpreted when studies consider only a snapshot of a female's offspring provisioning strategy or when components of the offspring provisioning strategy are studied in isolation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-529
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume170
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

Keywords

  • MATERNAL AGE
  • CLUTCH SIZE
  • sibling rivalry
  • fitness
  • ADAPTIVE SIGNIFICANCE
  • NATURAL-SELECTION
  • BODY-SIZE
  • reproductive effort
  • maternal effects
  • REPRODUCTIVE EFFORT
  • AGE STRUCTURE
  • adaptive death
  • POPULATION-DYNAMICS
  • PARENTAL INVESTMENT
  • COMPETITION

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