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Keywords:

  • salmonids;
  • adaptation;
  • metapopulation;
  • habitat heterogeneity;
  • plasticity;
  • trade-off

Abstract –  This study investigates differentiation in egg size among five sympatric brown trout (Salmo trutta (L.)) demes. We explore a hypothesis predicting high density-dependent interactions among juveniles to favour large eggs by sampling closely located (<100 m) deme pairs with low and high fry abundances. A mancova model fitted the egg size versus egg number relationship as a function of large-scale spatial habitat heterogeneity (basin) and maternal phenotype revealed that demes have significantly different egg size versus fecundity relationships and that the differentiation is mainly due to interdeme variation in egg size. Fry density was significantly and positively associated with egg size and a post-hoc test indicated egg size to be significantly greater in high-density than low-density tributaries. The data is consistent with the density-dependent hypothesis and suggest that reproductive investment can diverge over small geographic distances, potentially in response to environments favouring greater investment in offspring quality.