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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Variation in developmental rates is not linked to environmental unpredictability in annual killifishes

Rowinski, Piotr K.; Sowersby, Will; Naslund, Joacim; Eckerstrom-Liedholm, Simon; Gotthard, Karl; Rogell, Bjorn


Comparative evidence suggests that adaptive plasticity may evolve as a response to predictable environmental variation. However, less attention has been placed on unpredictable environmental variation, which is considered to affect evolutionary trajectories by increasing phenotypic variation (or bet hedging). Here, we examine the occurrence of bet hedging in egg developmental rates in seven species of annual killifish that originate from a gradient of variation in precipitation rates, under three treatment incubation temperatures (21, 23, and 25 degrees C). In the wild, these species survive regular and seasonal habitat desiccation, as dormant eggs buried in the soil. At the onset of the rainy season, embryos must be sufficiently developed in order to hatch and complete their life cycle. We found substantial differences among species in both the mean and variation of egg development rates, as well as species-specific plastic responses to incubation temperature. Yet, there was no clear relationship between variation in egg development time and variation in precipitation rate (environmental predictability). The exact cause of these differences therefore remains enigmatic, possibly depending on differences in other natural environmental conditions in addition to precipitation predictability. Hence, if species-specific variances are adaptive, the relationship between development and variation in precipitation is complex and does not diverge in accordance with simple linear relationships.


bet hedging; diapause; ephemeral habitats; maternal effects; plasticity; temperature response

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2021, Volume: 11, number: 12, pages: 8027-8037
Publisher: WILEY