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Life history variation within a population of the colonial ascidian botryllus schlosseri i. the genetic and environmental control of seasonal variation



Life history variation within a population of the colonial ascidian botryllus schlosseri i. the genetic and environmental control of seasonal variation



Evolution 42(5): 900-920



Many empirical analyses of life-history tactics are based on the assumption that demographic variation ought to be greatest among populations or species living in different environments. However, in a single population of the sessile colonial sea squirt Botryllus schlosseri, there are two discrete life-history morphs. Semelparous colonies are characterized by (a) death immediately following the production of a single clutch, (b) early age at first reproduction, (c) rapid growth to first reproduction, and (d) high reproductive effort. In contrast, iteroparous colonies (a) produce at least three clutches before dying, (b) postpone sexual reproduction until they are nearly twice the age of semelparous colonies, (c) grow at about half the rate of semelparous colonies, and (d) invest roughly 75% less in reproductive effort than semelparous colonies. Semelparous colonies numerically dominate the population through midsummer; later in the summer, iteroparous colonies are most numerous. Field and laboratory common-garden experiments, along with breeding studies, indicate that the demographic differences between the morphs are genetically determined. Consequently, the seasonal switch from dominance by semelparous colonies to dominance by iteroparous colonies may be an evolved response to a seasonally changing environment. On theoretical grounds, temporal variation in selection is thought to play a relatively unimportant role in maintaining genetic polymorphism; nonetheless, the seasonally recurrent life-history polymorphism shown in this study indicates that temporal variation in selection can lead to the maintenance of genetic polymorphism for traits strongly affecting fitness.

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Accession: 005808411

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DOI: 10.2307/2408907


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