Offspring size and survival in the frog Rana latastei: from among-population to within-clutch variation
Egg size is considered to be a major maternal effect for offspring in oviparous organisms. It has profound consequences on fitness, and differences in egg size are viewed as plastic responses to environmental variability. However, it is difficult to identify the effect of egg size per se because egg size can covary with genetic features of the mother and with other nongenetic factors. We analysed the relationship between offspring starting size (i.e. a proxy of egg size) and larval survival in the frog Rana latastei. We analysed this relationship: (1) among five populations at different altitudes; (2) among clutches laid from different females; and (3) among siblings within clutches, to evaluate the effect of starting size. We observed differences among populations for offspring size, but starting size was not related to altitude or genetic diversity. Mortality was higher in populations and families with small average starting size; however, among siblings, the relationship between starting size and mortality was not verified. The relationship observed among clutches may therefore be caused by covariation between egg size and other effects. This suggests that the covariation between egg size and other effects can result in apparent relationships between egg size and fitness-related traits. Proximate and ultimate factors can cause the phenotypic variation of hatchlings in the wild, and key traits can be related to this variation, but the underlying causes require further investigation. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 97, 845–853.