Terrestrial reproduction and parental care drive rapid evolution in the trade-off between offspring size and number across amphibians

Andrew I Furness, Chris Venditti, Isabella Capellini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The trade-off between offspring size and number is central to life history strategies. Both the evolutionary gain of parental care or more favorable habitats for offspring development are predicted to result in fewer, larger offspring. However, despite much research, it remains unclear whether and how different forms of care and habitats drive the evolution of the trade-off. Using data for over 800 amphibian species, we demonstrate that, after controlling for allometry, amphibians with direct development and those that lay eggs in terrestrial environments have larger eggs and smaller clutches, while different care behaviors and adaptations vary in their effects on the trade-off. Specifically, among the 11 care forms we considered at the egg, tadpole and juvenile stage, egg brooding, male egg attendance, and female egg attendance increase egg size; female tadpole attendance and tadpole feeding decrease egg size, while egg brooding, tadpole feeding, male tadpole attendance, and male tadpole transport decrease clutch size. Unlike egg size that shows exceptionally high rates of phenotypic change in just 19 branches of the amphibian phylogeny, clutch size has evolved at exceptionally high rates in 135 branches, indicating episodes of strong selection; egg and tadpole environment, direct development, egg brooding, tadpole feeding, male tadpole attendance, and tadpole transport explain 80% of these events. By explicitly considering diversity in parental care and offspring habitat by stage of offspring development, this study demonstrates that more favorable conditions for offspring development promote the evolution of larger offspring in smaller broods and reveals that the diversity of parental care forms influences the trade-off in more nuanced ways than previously appreciated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e3001495
JournalPLoS biology
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 04 Jan 2022

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