Community Ecology


, Volume 146, Issue 1, pp 98-109

First online:

Patterns and fitness consequences of intraclutch variation in egg provisioning in tropical Australian frogs

  • Martin A. DziminskiAffiliated withSchool of Tropical Biology, James Cook UniversitySchool of Animal Biology (M092), University of Western Australia Email author 
  • , Ross A. AlfordAffiliated withSchool of Tropical Biology, James Cook University

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Intraclutch variation in offspring size should evolve when offspring encounter unpredictable environmental conditions. This form of bet-hedging should maximise the lifetime reproductive success of individuals that engage it. We documented the numbers of eggs and means and variances of yolk volume in 15 frog species that occur in tropical savanna woodland. We experimentally determined the effects of initial yolk volume on larval growth patterns in four species. Intraclutch variation in yolk volume occurred to some degree in all species surveyed. Some species had very low, others had very high, intraclutch variation in yolk volume, but all species in which some clutches were highly variable also produced clutches with low variability. Species that occur in areas where the offspring environment is likely to be unpredictable had elevated levels of intraclutch variation in egg provisioning. There was no trade-off between egg size and number in any species surveyed. Under benign laboratory conditions, tadpoles from eggs with larger yolk volumes hatched at larger sizes, and these size differences persisted through a substantial proportion of the larval stage. This indicates that intraclutch variation in egg size has major offspring and thus parental fitness consequences, and is therefore a functional selection variable. This study provides evidence in support of models which predict that intraclutch variation in offspring provisioning can evolve in organisms that reproduce in unpredictable habitats.


Maternal investment Offspring size Bet-hedging