Original Paper


, Volume 104, Issue 1, pp 122-132

First online:

Phenotypic plasticity and priority rules for energy allocation in a freshwater clam: a field experiment

  • J. JokelaAffiliated withLaboratory of Ecological Zoology, Department of Biology, University of TurkuKonnevesi Research Station
  • , P. MutikainenAffiliated withLaboratory of Ecological Zoology, Department of Biology, University of TurkuKonnevesi Research Station

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We studied resource allocation among maintenance, reproduction and growth in the freshwater clam Anodonta piscinalis. Recent theoretical and empirical studies imply that organisms with indeterminate growth may have priority rules for energy allocation. That being so, the traits involved should potentially be capable of considerable phenotypic modulation, as a mechanism to adjust allocation. We tested this hypothesis using a 1-year reciprocal transplant experiment at six sites. Experimental clams were caged at higher than natural densities in order to detect any phenotypic modulation of the traits and discover the putative priority rules in energy allocation. We recorded the survival and shell growth of clams during the experiment, and the reproductive output, somatic mass and fat content of clams at the end of the experiment. Shell growth, somatic mass, and the reproductive output of females varied more among transplant sites than among the populations of origin, suggesting a high capacity for phenotypic modulation. However, the reproductive investment, somatic mass and shell growth were also affected by origin; clams from productive habitats invested more in reproduction and were heavier. In comparison to undisturbed clams, the reproductive output of the experimental clams was similar and their fat content was higher, whereas their shell growth was considerably slower and their somatic mass lower. These results suggests that when resources are limiting (due to high density) reproductive allocation overrides allocation to somatic growth. The highest mortality during the experiment coincided with the period of reproductive stress in the spring. Additionally, the proportion of reproducing females was lower in those transplant groups where the survival rate was lowest, suggesting that maintenance allocation overrides allocation to reproduction when available resources are scarce. The results of this field experiment support theoretical predictions and results of previous laboratory experiments that suggest that there are priority rules for energy allocation in organisms with indeterminate growth.

Key words

Unionidae Growth Reproduction Survival Trade-off