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Effects of egg size and moderate hypoxia on the development and survival of Syngnathus typhle embryos

Authors Ines Goncalves
I Ahnesjö
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Published in International Society for Behavioral Ecology, Ithaca, USA, 2008
Publication year 2008
Published at Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology
Language en
Subject categories Marine ecology, Ethology and behavioural ecology


Even though offspring quality generally improves with increasing egg size, eggs of aquatic organisms never get as big as eggs of for example birds or reptiles do. A very common assumption is that above a certain size, embryos require more oxygen than they can acquire by diffusion through the egg surface and therefore cannot develop. Oxygen demands of embryos are thought to increase in accordance with egg volume whilst oxygen availability is restricted by the surface area of the egg. Therefore, large eggs have a comparatively small surface area to volume ratio than smaller eggs have, suggesting that egg size may be constrained by oxygen limitations. Despite being widely accepted, this assumption has seldom been tested. In the broad-nosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, egg size is positively correlated with female length, so that females of different size classes produce eggs of significantly different diameters. In this study, we tested the effect of moderate hypoxia (40% O2) on the survival and development of embryos from large and small eggs, after 18 days of brooding. Results show that under hypoxia, initial egg size does not affect either survival or development. Hypoxia in itself negatively affected embryonic development but not survival. Moreover, embryos developed significantly larger vitelline membranes, which improve oxygen uptake, under hypoxic conditions. Taken together, development but not survival of S. typhle embryos was affected by hypoxia, and, despite the significant difference in egg size within this species, no detrimental effects of egg size were observed under hypoxic conditions.

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