Differences in density-dependence drive dual offspring size strategies in fish

Karin H. Olsson*, Henrik Gislason, Ken Haste Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Offspring size reflects the optimal balance between female fecundity and allocation of energy to each offspring. Most fish, in particular teleost species, produce many small eggs, while others, notably elasmobranch species, have low fecundity and large offspring. No general explanation has yet been put forwards to explain these different strategies between species which occupy similar habitats. We approach the problem by (1) examining the differences between life history parameters of teleost fish and elasmobranchs and (2) an evolutionary model. We show that life history parameters characterising growth, mortality and reproductive output are almost similar between teleosts and elasmobranchs. We find that a model which accounts for density-dependence predicts dual offspring size strategies: either invariant with adult size or proportional to adult size. The model predicts that the invariant strategy is associated with an absence of density-dependence in early life whereas proportional offspring are subject to density-dependence throughout life. Parameterising the model using life history data regenerates the observed dual offspring size pattern. We conjecture that the life stage where density-dependent competition occurs is an important factor behind the observed difference in offspring size strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Density-dependence
  • Life history
  • Offspring size
  • Size spectrum theory


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