One of the central issues in ecology is the identification of processes affecting the population structure and dynamics of species with complex life cycles. In such species, variation in both the number of larvae that enter a population and their phenotype are important drivers of survival and growth after metamorphosis. Larval experience can have strong effects on key post-metamorphic traits, but the temporal scale of such ‘trait-mediated effects’ may be short, and their magnitude may depend on the environment experienced after metamorphosis. We used an intertidal barnacle to study the long-term consequences of trait-mediated effects under different post-metamorphic conditions by manipulating larval food concentration and monitoring patterns of survival and growth in juveniles at 2 intertidal levels over a 5 mo period. In 2 replicated experiments, higher food levels resulted in increased body size, mass and reserves (measured from elemental composition) in the settling larval stage and increased body size of newly metamorphosed juveniles. In Expt 1, high food concentration reduced juvenile mortality at low intertidal levels, while on the upper intertidal, mortality was high for all larval food concentrations. By contrast, in Expt 2, low larval food concentration decreased juvenile survival at both shore levels. When present, effects were established early (Weeks 1 or 2) and persisted for over 10 wk in Expt 1 and 22 wk in Expt 2. Interactive effects of the larval and juvenile environments can have important implications for population size: trait-mediated effects may persist for long periods, helping to explain patterns of adult abundance.
- Benthic invertebrate
- Food limitation
- Larval environment
- Trait-mediated effect
Torres, G., Gimenez, L., Pettersen, A. K., Bue, M., Burrows, M., & Jenkins, S. R. (2016). Persistent and context-dependent effects of the larval feeding environment on post-metamorphic performance through the adult stage. Marine Ecology-Progress Series, 545, 147-160. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11586