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Linking life-history theory and metabolic theory explains the offspring size-temperature relationship

  • Amanda Pettersen
  • Craig R. White
  • Robert J Bryson-Richardson
  • Dustin J. Marshall
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Publication/Series: Ecology Letters
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

Temperature often affects maternal investment in offspring. Across and within species, mothers in colder environments generally produce larger offspring than mothers in warmer environments, but the underlying drivers of this relationship remain unresolved. We formally evaluated the ubiquity of the temperature–offspring size relationship and found strong support for a negative relationship
across a wide variety of ectotherms. We then tested an explanation for this relationship that formally links life-history and metabolic theories. We estimated the costs of development across temperatures using a series of laboratory experiments on model organisms, and a meta-analysis across 72 species of ectotherms spanning five phyla. We found that both metabolic and developmental rates increase with temperature, but developmental rate is more temperature sensitive than metabolic rate, such that the overall costs of development decrease with temperature. Hence, within a species’ natural temperature range, development at relatively cooler temperatures requires
mothers to produce larger, better provisioned offspring.


  • Ecology


  • ISSN: 1461-023X
Amanda Pettersen
E-mail: amanda [dot] pettersen [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Postdoctoral fellow

Evolutionary ecology

Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group

Evolutionary Biology



Postdoc host

Tobias Uller