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Brood or broadcast? The adaptive significance of different reproductive strategies in the two intertidal sea stars Leptasterias hexactis and Pisaster ochraceus

Abstract

This paper considers the adaptive significance of two different reproductive methods in two co-occurring, competing sea stars. The smaller (3 to 8 g mean wet weight) Leptasterias hexactis broods relatively few, large young in the winter, while the large (300 to 650 g mean wet weight) Pisaster ochraceus broadcasts relatively many, small eggs each spring. L. hexactis matures at a small size (2 g wet weight) in about 2 years, and P. ochraceus matures at a larger size (70 to 90 g wet weight) in about 5 years (Menge, 1974). As in many broadcasting asteroids, gonad and storage organ indices of P. ochraceus are inversely related over time, and maximum storage-organ index correlates with the summer feeding maximum (Mauzey, 1966). In contrast, both organ indices of L. hexactis and feeding increase and are positively correlated until early autumn, when feeding activity begins to decline. At this time the male gonad index continues to rise, and the storage-organ index drops. In contrast, both organ indices of females rise. Spawning occurs from November to January. Thereafter storage-organ indices decline in females, presumably because females draw upon energy reserves while brooding; storage-organ indices rise in males, presumably because males do not brood and can feed if food is available. The primary cause for the differences between annual reproductive cycles of P. ochraceus and L. hexactis is suggested to be patterns of food availability for the released young (planktonic food for the broadcasted young of P. ochraceus and benthic prey for the brooded young of L. hexactis. Estimates of pre-maturity survival and post-maturity longevity indicate that the probability of survival per individual of young P. ochraceus is vastly lower than that of L. hexactis. However, once mature, P. ochraceus has a much longer expected lifespan. Brooding is suggested to be a coadaptive consequence of competition-induced small size. Assuming planktonic mortality rates in this environment are roughly constant across broadcasting species, I suggest that a small broadcasting species could not produce enough offspring in its expected lifespan to replace itself. This hypothesis is partly supported by some simple simulations. Broadcasting is suggested to permit rapid location and utilization of spatially and temporally unpredictable, but highly desirable, resources by allowing rapid and widespread dispersal. Brooders presumably cannot disperse rapidly and must rely on more reliable, but perhaps less desirable, resources. Factors affecting reproductive patterns in marine invertebrates include (1) food availability for both adults and offspring, (2) planktonic mortality rates, (3) interactions between species and latitudinal changes in these factors, and (4) various physical factors. This paper suggests that competition and predation can have an important effect on the evolution of reproductive methods, a possibility heretofore largely ignored. Although several similar examples of co-occurring species' pairs which differ in reproductive method and size are available, the role of adult interactions is unknown in these examples.

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Communicated by M.R. Tripp, Newark

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Menge, B.A. Brood or broadcast? The adaptive significance of different reproductive strategies in the two intertidal sea stars Leptasterias hexactis and Pisaster ochraceus . Mar. Biol. 31, 87–100 (1975). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00390651

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Keywords

  • Reproductive Method
  • Gonad Index
  • Planktonic Food
  • Benthic Prey
  • Annual Reproductive Cycle