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Keywords:

  • egg size;
  • life-history theory;
  • maternal effect;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • seed size

Summary

  1. Offspring size is a trait of fundamental importance that affects the ecology and evolution of a range of organisms. Despite the pervasive impact of offspring size for those offspring, the influence of offspring size on other species in the broader community remains unexplored. Such community-wide effects of offspring size are likely, but they have not been anticipated by theory or explored empirically.
  2. For a marine invertebrate community, we manipulated the size and density of offspring of a resident species (Watersipora subtorquata) in the field and examined subsequent community assembly around that resident species.
  3. Communities that assembled around larger offspring were denser and less diverse than communities that assembled around smaller offspring. Differences in niche usage by colonies from smaller and larger offspring may be driving these community-level effects.
  4. Our results suggest that offspring size is an important but unexplored source of ecological variation and that life-history theory must accommodate the effects of offspring size on community assembly. Life-history theory often assumes that environmental variation drives intraspecific variation in offspring size, and our results show that the converse can also occur.