Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 627–643 | Cite as

Temperature effects on egg size and their fitness consequences in the yellow dung fly Scathophaga stercoraria

  • Wolf U. Blanckenhorn


Organisms and parts of an organism like eggs or individual cells developing in colder environments tend to grow bigger. A unifying explanation for this Bergmann's rule extended to ectotherms has not been found, and whether this is an adaptive response or a physiological constraint is debated. The dependence of egg and clutch size on the mother's temperature environment were investigated in the yellow dung fly Scathophaga stercoraria. Smaller eggs were laid at warmer temperatures in the field and the laboratory, where possible confounding variables were controlled for. As clutch size at the same time was unaffected by temperature, this effect was not due to a trade-off between egg size and number. Temperature-dependent egg sizes even persisted within individuals: when females were transferred to a cooler (warmer) environment, they laid third-clutch eggs that were larger (smaller) than their first-clutch eggs. The fitness consequences of these temperature-mediated egg sizes were further investigated in two laboratory experiments. Neither egg and pre-adult survivorship nor larval growth rate were maximized, nor was development time minimized, at the ambient temperature corresponding to the mother's temperature environment. This does not support the beneficial acclimation hypothesis. Instead, this study yielded some, but by no means conclusive indications of best performance by offspring from eggs laid at intermediate temperatures, weakly supporting the optimal temperature hypothesis. In one experiment the smaller eggs laid at 24 °C had reduced survivorship at all ambient temperatures tested. Smaller eggs thus generally performed poorly. The most parsimonious interpretation of these results is that temperature-mediated variation in egg size is a maternal physiological response (perhaps even a constraint) of unclear adaptive value.

adaptation Bergmann's rule clutch size egg size physiological constraint temperature 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolf U. Blanckenhorn
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisches MuseumUniversität ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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