Population density shapes patterns of survival and reproduction in Eleutheria dichotoma (Hydrozoa: Anthoathecata)
Marine Biology, 165:3/48, 1–10 (2018)
Budding hydromedusae have high reproductive rates due to asexual reproduction and can occur in high population densities along the coasts, specifically in tidal pools. In laboratory experiments, we investigated the effects of population density on the survival and reproductive strategies of a single clone of Eleutheria dichotoma. We found that sexual reproduction occurs with the highest rate at medium population densities. Increased sexual reproduction was associated with lower budding (asexual reproduction) and survival probability. Sexual reproduction results in the production of motile larvae that can, in contrast to medusae, seek to escape unfavorable conditions by actively looking for better environments. The successful settlement of a larva results in starting the polyp stage, which is probably more resistant to environmental conditions. This is the first study that has examined the life-history strategies of the budding hydromedusa E. dichotoma by conducting a long-term experiment with a relatively large sample size that allowed for the examination of age-specific mortality and reproductive rates. We found that most sexual and asexual reproduction occurred at the beginning of life following a very rapid process of maturation. The parametric models fitted to the mortality data showed that population density was associated with an increase in the rate of aging, an increase in the level of late-life mortality plateau, and a decrease in the hidden heterogeneity in individual mortality rates. The effects of population density on life-history traits are discussed in the context of resource allocation and the r/K-strategies’ continuum concept.