, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 317-325

First online:

Effects of temperature and salinity on the life history of the sailfin molly (Pisces: Poeciliidae): lipid storage and reproductive allocation

  • M. G. McManusAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 33206-2043, USA
  • , J. TravisAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 33206-2043, USA

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While the life history traits of animals usually exhibit substantial phenotypic plasticity, such plasticity might reflect either a simple alteration in the level of energy accrual and use or a genuine shift in energy allocation tactics between environmental conditions. The latter would represent genuine plasticity in the life history itself, and thus it is important to distinguish which of these two processes underlies the observed plasticity of life history traits. We investigated this issue by examining the effects of temperature and salinity variation during ontogeny on the allocation of biomass and lipid storage in male sailfin mollies, Poecilia latipinna. We raised males from four natural populations from birth to maturity in controlled laboratory conditions. Neither distinct temperatures (23 or 29°C) nor different salinity regimes (2, 12, or 20 parts per thousand) affected body mass, although males from different populations differed substantially in body mass. However, males raised at the higher temperature had a greater allocation of biomass to testis and a lower allocation to viscera mass. The amount of stored lipid was altered by temperature variation but the direction and magnitude of the effect varied substantially among males from the different populations. Salinity variation affected neither biomass allocation nor the level of lipid storage. These results indicate that male mollies possess a flexible developmental program with respect to temperature that canalizes body size and alters the allocation of biomass among competing demands for reproductive readiness and capacity for energy storage.

Key words Energy allocation Life history traits Phenotypic plasticity Temperature Triacylglycerol