Population mean egg size of salmonids increases with the mean size of gravels in which a population spawns. A long-standing hypothesis is that large larvae cannot navigate small-gravel interstices, so mothers must decrease per-offspring investment when spawning gravels are small. We
manipulated the size of incubation gravels and egg size of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) to test whether size-related entombment of larvae occurs. We find little evidence of size-related entombment, but we find evidence that gravel size does not affect all larval sizes equally. Larger
larvae emerge from small gravels before development is complete and with a visible yolk sac, possibly due to oxygen limitation in small gravels. Smaller larvae always complete development in the gravel and emerge without a yolk sac. Although growth and survival may increase with juvenile size
following yolk-sac absorption, juveniles with yolk sacs may fare worse when depredation rates are high. The egg size – gravel size correlation may therefore reflect increased postemergence mortality among larger offspring in small-gravel environments. Alternatively, compaction
stress in fine gravels coupled with size asymmetries in larval strength may have caused the patterns that we observed, in which case our data may not help explain the egg size – gravel size correlation.
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