Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 93, Issue 4, pp 461–474 | Cite as

Paternal body size affects reproductive success in laboratory-held zebrafish (Danio rerio)

  • S. Uusi-HeikkiläEmail author
  • A. Kuparinen
  • C. Wolter
  • T. Meinelt
  • R. Arlinghaus


Across many fish species, large females tend to exhibit higher individual reproductive success due to elevated fecundity and the provisioning of better conditioned eggs and offspring compared to small females. By contrast, effects of paternal body size on reproductive success are less well understood. We disentangled the maternal- and paternal-size dependent effects on reproductive output and early life history in zebrafish (Danio rerio). In the laboratory, females and males from four size categories (small, medium-sized, large and very large) were allowed to spawn freely in a full factorial design with 10 replicates per size combination. As expected, larger females produced more eggs and better conditioned offspring compared to smaller females. Male body size further contributed to zebrafish reproductive success: offspring sired by large males exhibited higher hatching probability and these offspring also hatched earlier and larger than offspring fertilized by small males. However, the largest males experienced lower mating success and received fewer eggs than males of the smaller size classes. While male body size substantially affected reproductive success in zebrafish, it remained unclear whether and to what degree direct paternal effects (e.g., related to sperm quality) or indirect paternal effects stemming from differential allocation patterns by females were the mechanism behind our findings. Answering this question constitutes an important future research topic.


Maternal effect Paternal effect Reproductive fitness Reproductive success 



Funding for this study was through the Adaptfish Project grant to RA and CW by the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Community ( and through the Academy of Finland for AK. We thank Sarah Becker and Amanda O’Toole for help in collecting the data and in husbandry of zebrafish. Additionally, we thank Thomas Mehner and the participants of the course on Scientific Writing at IGB for helpful discussion on an earlier draft of this article, and four reviewers for feedback. The finalization of this study was financially supported by the project Besatzfisch ( by the German Ministry for Education and Research in the Program on Social-Ecological Research (grant # 01UU0907,


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Uusi-Heikkilä
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Kuparinen
    • 2
  • C. Wolter
    • 1
  • T. Meinelt
    • 3
  • R. Arlinghaus
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Ecological Genetics Research Unit, Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Ecophysiology and AquacultureLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Inland Fisheries Management Laboratory, Department for Crop and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and HorticultureHumboldt-University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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