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INTRASPECIFIC VARIATION IN THE GROWTH RATE OF GASTROPODS: FIVE HYPOTHESES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2012

Diane M. Shibata
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. W., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1
C. David Rollo
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. W., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1
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Abstract

Gastropods commonly show enormous variation in growth rate, even among identically reared siblings. This was investigated using a small isolated population of Deroceras laeve (Müller) — a species with low genetic variability. A high degree of variation in growth rate was evident, even among offspring from unmated mothers. This confirmed our hypothesis that this variation does not require high genetic polymorphism. Four additional hypotheses concerning the causal mechanism(s) for this variation were investigated: (1) Maternal influence through variation of egg quality was rejected as a possible cause for the variation since animals from mothers raised on either high- or low-quality diets did not differ significantly in growth or maturation rates (when egg size was controlled). (2) The possibility that animals might have their growth trajectory fixed by early nutritional experience was tested by initially rearing slugs on either high- or low-quality diets, and then reversing their food. Such "nutritional imprinting" was not supported. (3) Intraspecific interaction among individuals was not supported as a cause of variation either since stunted slugs did not show improved growth when isolated from conspecifics, and there was equal variation among individuals reared from the egg in isolation. (4) Variation in the egg size was the only characteristic investigated that significantly changed rates of juvenile growth and the timing of maturation. Larger eggs produced slower-growing slugs that matured later, and egg size seemed to account for the full range of observed variation. The ultimate function of the mechanism remains to be determined, but possibilities include adjusting the performance of offspring to resource supply, ensuring availability of mature individuals to breed during favourable microclimates, reducing competition among members of a cohort, or ensuring sexual heterogeneity for hermaphroditic breeding.

Résumé

Les résultats d'études effectuées sur Deroceras laeve (Müller), une espèce montrant peu de variabilité génétique, ont confirmé que la variation communément observée du taux de croissance chez les gastropodes ne résulte pas d'un haut niveau de polymorphisme génétique, et se manifeste même chez des progénitures issues de mères non inséminés. On a éliminé l'influence maternelle via la qualité des oeufs comme source possible de la variation, puisque les taux de croissance et de maturation de progénitures issues de mères élevées sur régime de bonne ou mauvaise qualité ne différaient pas significativement (la variation de la taille des oeufs étant contrôlée). De même, on a pu rejeter la possibilité de fixation de la trajectoire de croissance sous l'effet d'une première expérience nutritionnelle, car aucune différence n'a été observée entre des limaces d'abord nourries d'un régime de bonne ou mauvaise qualité, puis ensuite transférées sur l'autre régime. L'interaction entre individus n'est pas apparue non plus comme une cause possible de la variation, puisque des limaces nanisées n'ont pas récupéré lorsque mises en isolation, et que la variation était aussi grande chez des individus élevés en isolation. La taille des oeufs est la seule caractéristique étudiée qui a pu être liée avec la taux de croissance juvénile et avec le moment de maturation. Plus les oeufs était gros, plus la croissance était lente; la taille des oeufs semblait expliquer toute la variation observée. La fonction n'est pas encore déterminé, mais certaines des possibilités sont les suivantes : l'ajustement de la performance de la progéniture à la disponibilité des ressources, l'assurance que des individus seront disponibles pour s'accoupler lors des périodes microclimatiques favorables, la réduction de la compétition entre membres d'une même cohorte, et l'assurance de l'existence d'hétérogénéité sexuelle pour la reproduction hermaphrodite.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Entomological Society of Canada 1988

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Footnotes

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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.

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