Marine Biology

, 166:157 | Cite as

Environmental regulation of individual body size contributes to geographic variation in clonal life cycle expression

  • Will H. RyanEmail author
  • Leoni Adams
  • Guido Bonthond
  • Nova Mieszkowska
  • Kathryn E. Pack
  • Stacy A. Krueger-Hadfield
Original Paper


Clonal behavior has been hypothesized to provide an escape from allometric metabolic scaling that limits the maximum mass achieved by a single individual. Here, we demonstrate the capacity of a wide-spread, non-native sea anemone to buffer its colony biomass accumulation rate across environments by modulating ramet body size through environmentally dependent growth, fission, and catabolism. In 2015, thermal reaction norms for growth and fission behavior were constructed using clonal lines of the sea anemone Diadumene lineata. In 2018, variation in growth patterns under a factorial cross of temperature level and oxygen availability was examined to test the hypothesis that individual ramet size is regulated by oxygen limitation in accordance with optimal size theory. Across a wide range of temperatures, colonies accumulated a similar amount of biomass despite a radical shift from unitary to clonal growth, supporting fission as a mechanism to buffer growth rates over a range of conditions. Individual body size appears to be regulated by the environment with increased temperature and reduced oxygen modifying fission and mass-specific growth patterns, leading to the production of smaller-bodied ramets in warm conditions. However, whether anemones in common garden conditions reduce individual body size through catabolism or fission depends on the region of origin and may relate to differences in seasonal temperature patterns among coastlines, which influence the energetic benefits of fission rate plasticity.



We thank C.R. Hadfield and K. Atkins for logistics and help in the mesocosm at the Marine Biological Association; M. Yant for help maintaining anemones at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; J. Mutz and J. Imhoff for field assistance; J. Mutz and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript; and B. Hughes and K. Wasson for access to Elkhorn Slough. Funding was provided by the PADI Foundation (#21902) to WHR; the Ray Lankester Investigatorship of the Marine Biological Association of the UK (2017–2019) to SAKH; Start-up funds from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to SAKH; the Marine Biological Association of the UK Fellowship to NM. WHR was supported as a UAB MERIT postdoctoral fellow during the preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

227_2019_3608_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (195 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 195 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.The Marine Biological Association of the United KingdomPlymouthUK
  4. 4.Benthic EcologyGEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany
  5. 5.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  6. 6.Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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