Maternal age at maturation underpins contrasting behavior in offspring

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Abstract

In species where parental care occurs primarily via the provisioning of eggs, older females tend to produce larger offspring that have better fitness prospects. Remarkably however, a relationship between age of mother and fitness of offspring has also been reported independently of effects on offspring size suggesting that there may be other factors at play. Here, using experimental matings between wild Atlantic salmon that differed in their age at sexual maturation, we demonstrate distinct size-independent variation in the behavior of their offspring that was related to the maturation age of the mother (but not the father). We found that when juvenile salmon were competing for feeding territories, offspring of early-maturing mothers were more aggressive than those of late-maturing mothers, but were out-competed for food by them. This is the first demonstration of a link between natural variation in parental age at maturation and variation in offspring behavior.

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