The relationship between offspring size and fitness: integrating theory and empiricism
Hutchings, Jeffrey Alexander
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How parents divide the energy available for reproduction between size and number of offspring has a profound effect on parental reproductive success. Theory indicates that the relationship between offspring size and offspring fitness is of fundamental importance to the evolution of parental reproductive strategies: this relationship predicts the optimal division of resources between size and number of offspring, it describes the fitness consequences for parents that deviate from optimality, and its shape can predict the most viable type of investment strategy in a given environment (e. g., conservative vs. diversified bet-hedging). Many previous attempts to estimate this relationship and the corresponding value of optimal offspring size have been frustrated by a lack of integration between theory and empiricism. In the present study, we draw from C. Smith and S. Fretwell's classic model to explain how a sound estimate of the offspring size-fitness relationship can be derived with empirical data. We evaluate what measures of fitness can be used to model the offspring size-fitness curve and optimal size, as well as which statistical models should and should not be used to estimate offspring size-fitness relationships. To construct the fitness curve, we recommend that offspring fitness be measured as survival up to the age at which the instantaneous rate of offspring mortality becomes random with respect to initial investment. Parental fitness is then expressed in ecologically meaningful, theoretically defensible, and broadly comparable units: the number of offspring surviving to independence. Although logistic and asymptotic regression have been widely used to estimate offspring size-fitness relationships, the former provides relatively unreliable estimates of optimal size when offspring survival and sample sizes are low, and the latter is unreliable under all conditions. We recommend that the Weibull-1 model be used to estimate this curve because it provides modest improvements in prediction accuracy under experimentally relevant conditions.
Rollinson, Njal, and Jeffrey A. Hutchings. 2013. "The relationship between offspring size and fitness: integrating theory and empiricism." Ecology 94(2): 315-324.