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Delayed early life effects in the threespine stickleback

Cite this dataset

Candolin, Ulrika (2022). Delayed early life effects in the threespine stickleback [Dataset]. Dryad.


Early life conditions can have a decisive influence on viability later in life. Yet, the influence of embryo density within a nest or body cavity on subsequent viability has received little attention within an ecological setting. This is surprising given that embryos often compete for limited resources, such as nutrients and oxygen, and this could influence their viability later in life through carry-over and compensatory effects. We show that the density of fertilised eggs within the nests of threespine stickleback males (Gasterosteus aculeatus) influences their viability after hatching. Embryos from larger broods hatch earlier and at a smaller size than those from smaller broods, which reduces their survival until 4 weeks age. This indicates a trade-off between the number and viability of offspring that males can raise to the hatching stage, which could explain the high incidence of partial egg cannibalism in nest-brooding fishes - as a strategy to improve the survival of remaining offspring.  These results highlight the importance of considering conditions at the embryonic stage when evaluating the impact of early life conditions on viability and the adaptive value of reproductive decisions