, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 316-323

Early reproduction and increased reproductive allocation in metal-adapted populations of the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber

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Organisms inhabiting metal-contaminated areas can be stressed by metal exposure and are possibly subject to selection, resulting in increased metal tolerance and changes in growth and/or reproduction characteristics. In a previous study it was found that in the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber, sampled from the vicinity of a zine smelter, the body size was small and the brood size was large compared to isopods from a reference area. To assess whether these differences were due to genetic differentiation between strains, isopods collected from a reference wood, a zinc smelter area and a lead mine were cultured on non-polluted food, while growth, reproduction and metal concentrations were studied in first and second laboratory generations. The isopods from the three populations differed in age and weight at first reproduction, although there were hardly any differences in growth. The females of the mine and the smelter population started to reproduce earlier, at a lower weight, which resulted in fewer young per female. However, reproductive allocation (=wight of young relative to the weight of the mother) was higher in mine and smelter isopods. We conclude that the isopods at the metal-contaminated sites have been selected for early reproduction and increased reproductive allocation. The results indicate that populations inhabiting metal-polluted sites have probably undergone evolutionary changes. This study showed that growth and reproduction characteristics of different populations under laboratory conditions may provide information on selection processes in the field.