Bigger mothers = better chances: the first test of a central hypothesis in marine fish ecology—editorial comment on the feature article by Saenz-Agudelo et al.
A major hypothesis (and assumption) of marine population ecology and marine fisheries management is that the size of female fish is positively related to the number of eggs produced and, consequently, to the number of survivors (recruits) they produce. Although the investment of energy into reproduction often increases within increasing size (larger individuals have higher fecundity than smaller individuals in marine fish species), the benefits of obtaining a large size in terms of recruitment have been notoriously difficult to document. Similarly, older females (who tend to be larger) can produce offspring with far better performance than younger females (Berkeley et al. 2004). This central hypothesis coined by some more casually as the ‘Big Old Fat Fecund Female Fish (BOFFFF) Hypothesis’ (Field et al. 2008; Hixon et al. 2014) has remained, essentially, untested because of the challenges associated with tracing recruits back to their parents in large enough quantities to allow statistical inference. In this volume, Saenz-Agudelo et al. (2014) set out to test the BOFFFF hypothesis using a field study of the saddleback clownfish (Amphiprion polymnus) in Bootless Bay, Papua New Guinea. In this region for this species, previous research found strong connectivity among subpopulations across several sites (Saenz-Agudelo et al. 2011), offering a unique chance to examine the contribution of females size to recruitment success in a metapopulation.
- Field JG, Moloney CL, du Buisson L, Jarre A, Stroemme T, Lipinksi MR, Kainge P (2008). Exploring the BOFFFF hypothesis using a model of southern African deepwater hake (Merluccius paradoxus). In: Tsukamoto K, Kawamura T, Takeuchi T, Beard TTD Jr, Kaiser MJ (eds) Fisheries for global welfare and environment. 5th World Fisheries Congress 2008, pp 17–26Google Scholar
- Saenz-Agudelo P, Jones GP, Thorrold SR, Planes S (2014) Mothers matter: contribution to local replenishment is linked to female size, mate replacement and fecundity in a fish metapopulation. Mar Biol. doi: 10.1007/s00227-014-2556-x