, Volume 155, Issue 4, pp 705-716,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Scaling of offspring number and mass to plant and animal size: model and meta-analysis


The scaling of reproductive parameters to body size is important for understanding ecological and evolutionary patterns. Here, we derived allometric relationships for the number and mass of seeds, eggs and neonates from an existing model on population production. In a separate meta-analysis, we collected 79 empirical regressions on offspring mass and number covering different taxa and various habitats. The literature review served as a validation of the model, whereas, vice versa, consistency of isolated regressions with each other and related ecological quantities was checked with the model. The total offspring mass delivered in a reproductive event scaled to adult size with slopes in the range of about 3/4 to 1. Exponents for individual seed, egg and neonate mass varied around 1/2 for most heterotherms and between 3/4 and 1 for most homeotherms. The scaling of the progeny number released in a sowing, clutch or litter was opposite to that of their size. The linear regressions fitted into a triangular envelope where maximum offspring mass is limited by the size of the adult. Minimum seed and egg size scaled with weight exponents of approximately 0 up to 1/4. These patterns can be explained by the influence of parents on the fate of their offspring, covering the continuum of r-strategists (pelagic–aquatic, arial, most invertebrates, heterotherms) and K-strategists (littoral–terrestrial, some invertebrates, homeotherms).

Communicated by Bernhard Schmid.