, Volume 94, Issue 4, pp 669-680
Date: 22 May 2012

Habitat and life history differences between two species of Gambusia

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Abstract

Life history strategies reflect trade-offs that tend to maximize fitness, such as investment in a few large or many small offspring. We compared life histories of two temperate livebearing fishes Gambusia affinis and G. nobilis, an endangered species which is virtually unstudied. The two species persist in environments that differ widely in abiotic and biotic factors in the same local area. Gambusia affinis were typically found in habitats with high productivity and wide fluctuations in temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen, whereas G. nobilis occurred in more stable spring-fed habitats. We collected data on life-history traits: embryo mass, brood size (number of embryos), total maternal reproductive effort, population sex ratios, and size (mass and length) distributions of adults and juveniles. There was no difference between species in reproductive effort per brood, but they differed in investment strategy. Gambusia affinis females produced large broods with small embryos, whereas G. nobilis females produced broods of fewer, larger embryos. These differences in life history strategies reflect a tradeoff between individual productivity and differential mortality rates in different environments. At our field site G. affinis persists as an annual species with relatively high growth rates and corresponding reproductive patterns, whereas G. nobilis females have a slower reproductive tempo and may live multiple years.