Reproductive investment and somatic growth rates in longear sunfish

Research paper by Martin J. Jennings, David P. Philipp

Indexed on: 01 Nov '92Published on: 01 Nov '92Published in: Environmental biology of fishes


Allocation of energy to current reproduction at the expense of other functions, such as growth, can limit future reproductive potential. This cost of reproduction is a central concept of life history theory but has been difficult to verify in comparative field studies. Three levels of comparison of growth rates and reproductive investments were evaluated within and among populations of longear sunfish,Lepomis megalotis. All three demonstrated high levels of reproductive investment associated with reduced somatic growth. Within populations of central longear sunfish there are precociously mature sneaker makes and later maturing parental makes; sneakers have greater gonadosomatic index (GSI) values and slower somatic growth rates than parental makes. Between subspecies of longear sunfish grown under common conditions, there are differences in age at maturity and in the level of physiological reproductive investment that are associated with distinct differences in growth rates. Between populations of central longear sunfish inhabiting different sites, there are differences in the level of reproductive investment that are also associated with differences in somatic growth. Each comparison produced evidence that trade-offs occur between these life history traits, supporting the hypothesis that there is a cost of reproduction among male sunfish and suggesting that differences in strategies of reproductive investment contribute to variation in somatic growth.