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Keywords:

  • Correlated characters;
  • echinoids;
  • egg size;
  • fertilization;
  • jelly coat;
  • selection gradient.

Abstract Organisms with external fertilization are often sperm limited, and in echinoids, larger eggs have a higher probability of fertilization than smaller eggs. This difference is thought to be a result of the more frequent sperm-egg collisions experienced by larger targets. Here we report how two components of egg target size, the egg cell and jelly coat, contributed to fertilization success in a selection experiment. We used a cross-sectional analysis of correlated characters to estimate the selection gradients on egg and jelly-coat size in five replicate male pairs of the sand dollar Dendraster excentricus. Results indicated that eggs with larger cells and jelly coats were preferentially fertilized under sperm limitation in the laboratory. The selection gradients were an average of 922% steeper for egg than for jelly-coat size. The standardized selection gradients for egg and jelly-coat size were similar. Our results suggest that fertilization selection can act on both egg-cell and jelly-coat size but that an increase in egg-cell volume is much more likely to increase fertilization success than an equal change in jelly-coat volume. The strengths of the selection gradients were inversely related to the correlation of egg traits across replicate egg clutches. This result suggests the importance of replication in studies of selection of correlated characters.