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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sexual size dimorphism in two populations of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) : female body size and seasonal fecundity in a multiple spawning species Hooker, Laura Jayne


To date, models of sexual size dimorphism do not explain selection for small females, and they are also limited in their ability to explain intraspecific variation in sexual size dimorphism. I propose that small females, in species which produce multiple clutches in a breeding season, could have a selective advantage if the interval between clutches is shorter for small clutches of eggs. When the breeding season is long, small females may produce more eggs in total than large females by producing more clutches, and thus small size could be selected for. Two populations of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) showing divergence in the sexual bias of size dimorphism were used to determine if large or small females had a seasonal fecundity advantage in these multiple spawning fish, and whether the two populations had diverged in life-history characteristics (age at first reproduction, number of clutches, length of breeding season). In addition, the mechanisms by which the differences in size were achieved was investigated. Size-frequency diagrams obtained from field samples indicated that the Lewis Slough population was an annual one, while fish at the Angus Campbell site apparently survived for more than one breeding season. The larger size of females at the Angus Campbell site resulted primarily from continued growth with age, while males stopped growing in about one years time. In an environment chamber female fish from Lewis Slough grew more slowly, as they approached maturity, than males and were therefore were smaller than males. Data from field collections, fry raised to maturity in an environment chamber, and females individually monitored in captivity over the course of a breeding season indicated that the populations have diverged in life-history characters. Females from the Angus Campbell ditch site produced fewer clutches and eggs over the breeding season (a measure of reproductive effort), delayed maturity and matured at a greater size, and had a longer life-span than Lewis Slough females. These observations are more in accordance with the predictions from bet-hedging theory than r & K selection theory. Data from individually monitored females held in a common environment indicated that clutch size and interclutch interval increased with increasing body size but small females still did not attain the seasonal fecundity advantage predicted by the model. However, these results suggest that small females are capable of achieving a greater seasonal fecundity relative to large females than would be predicted by the difference in average clutch size alone. Actual counts of the total numbers of eggs produced by individuals in a breeding season showed seasonal fecundity to be independent of body size. Female body size and fecundity are more weakly linked than previously realized and this confers an increased flexibilty for responding to diverse selective pressures.

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