Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Maternal effects on offspring size and number in mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki


O'Dea, Rose E.; Vega-Trejo, Regina; Head, Megan L.; Jennions, Michael D. (2016), Data from: Maternal effects on offspring size and number in mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki, Dryad, Dataset,


Given a trade-off between offspring size and number, all mothers are predicted to produce the same optimal-sized offspring in a given environment. In many species, however, larger and/or older mothers produce bigger offspring. There are several hypotheses to explain this but they lack strong empirical support. In organisms with indeterminate growth, there is the additional problem that maternal size and age are positively correlated, so what are their relative roles in determining offspring size? To investigate this, we measured the natural relationship between maternal and offspring size in a wild population of Gambusia holbrooki (eastern mosquitofish), and experimentally disentangled the effects of maternal age and size on offspring size in the laboratory. In combination, our data indicate that the relationship between maternal and offspring size is nonlinear. Small mothers seem to produce larger than average offspring due to integer effects associated with very small broods. For extremely large mothers, which were only sampled in our wild data, these larger than average offspring may result from greater maternal resources or age effects. However, maternal age had no effect on offspring size or number in the laboratory experiment. Our results highlight the importance of sampling the full size–range of mothers when investigating maternal effects on offspring size. They also point to the difficulty of experimentally manipulating maternal size, because any change in size is invariably associated with a change in at least one factor affecting growth (be it temperature, food availability, or density) that might also have an indirect effect on offspring size.

Usage Notes