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F. Hendrickx, J. Maelfait, M. Speelmans and N. Van Straalen (2003)

Adaptive reproductive variation along a pollution gradient in a wolf spider

Oecologia, 134(2):189-194.

When populations are exposed to environmental pollutants, growth and reproduction might be strongly reduced due to an increased detoxification effort. Sublethal metal pollution is therefore to be expected to cause the same selection pressure as a low resource habitat and might alter the reproductive strategy. Optimality models of life history theory predict that when resource availability is reduced, growth and reproductive output are reduced and that the release of fewer but larger propagules will be favoured. This was tested by applying a life history model to reproductive trait measurements in six populations of the wolf spider Pirata piraticus in which the assumptions of the model are satisfied. Internal Cd, Cu and Zn body burden were strongly correlated with each other, and differed strongly between the populations, indicating consistently differing metal exposure at the different sites. Pb levels were extremely variable within each population and did not differ between the populations. Females from populations with high concentrations of the first three heavy metals showed a strongly reduced reproductive output and fecundity, indicating a high reduction in resource availability due to detoxification processes. Egg size in contrast was negatively correlated with fecundity and reproductive output and as a consequence positively related with internal metal burden. Our results are thus in strong agreement with the predictions of the optimality models and confirm the benefits of a larger propagule size when resource availability is reduced.

Hendrickx, F Maelfait, JP Speelmans, M Van Straalen, NM

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