Plastic reproductive strategies in a clonal marine invertebrate

  • McGovern T
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Plastic reproductive allocation may allow individuals to maximize their fitness when conditions vary. Mate availability is one condition that may determine the fitness of an individual's allocation strategy. Using a variety of methods, I detected evidence of plastic allocation to asexual (clonal) reproduction in response to mate availability in the brittle star Ophiactis savignyi. There were more mature individuals in populations in which both sexes were present, and clones from these populations had fewer clone-mates than clones from single-sex populations. Animals placed with mates in a field experiment divided less frequently than animals without a mate. These findings demonstrate that animals reduce their allocation to asexual reproduction when mates are present and when a loss of fecundity associated with cloning would decrease offspring production. This plasticity is probably adaptive because it maximizes sexual-reproductive potential when fertilization is more likely, but maximizes survival of the clone when mates are absent and gametes are unlikely to be converted to offspring.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Asexual (clonal) reproduction
  • Mate limitation
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Reproductive success
  • Risk spreading
  • Trade-offs

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  • Tamara M. McGovern

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