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Extended incubation affects larval morphology, hatching success and starvation resistance in a terrestrially spawning fish, Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns 1842)

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Tel.: +61 3 8344 6253; email: sswearer@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

The effect of extended incubation (delayed hatching) on larval morphology in the terrestrially spawning common galaxias Galaxias maculatus was investigated by inducing larvae to hatch 1 and 2 weeks after the normal 2 week incubation period. After 1 week of extended incubation, larvae were larger (longer in standard length, LS, and greater in body depth) compared to controls (larvae that experienced normal incubation durations). After 2 weeks of extended incubation, larvae were smaller (shorter in LS and smaller in body depth) than larvae that experienced 1 week of extended incubation. Furthermore, eye area increased while yolk-sac size decreased monotonically with increasing incubation duration. These results suggest that larvae experiencing long periods of extended incubation are using somatic tissue to meet their metabolic demands. Larvae that experienced 2 weeks of extended incubation succumbed to starvation sooner than control larvae, but hatching success was not significantly different. Temperature mediated the effect of extended incubation on the morphology of larvae at hatching, most likely, through its effects on developmental rate and efficiency of yolk utilization. This study demonstrates some of the consequences of terrestrial spawning with extended incubation, which will assist in determining why this intriguing behaviour has evolved several times in a diverse range of taxa.

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