Linking life-history theory and metabolic theory explains the offspring size-temperature relationship

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Temperature often affects maternal investment in offspring. Across and within species, mothers in colder environments generally produce larger offspring than mothers in warmer environments, but the underlying drivers of this relationship remain unresolved. We formally evaluated the ubiquity of the temperature–offspring size relationship and found strong support for a negative relationship
across a wide variety of ectotherms. We then tested an explanation for this relationship that formally links life-history and metabolic theories. We estimated the costs of development across temperatures using a series of laboratory experiments on model organisms, and a meta-analysis across 72 species of ectotherms spanning five phyla. We found that both metabolic and developmental rates increase with temperature, but developmental rate is more temperature sensitive than metabolic rate, such that the overall costs of development decrease with temperature. Hence, within a species’ natural temperature range, development at relatively cooler temperatures requires
mothers to produce larger, better provisioned offspring.


  • Amanda Pettersen
  • Craig R. White
  • Robert J Bryson-Richardson
  • Dustin J. Marshall
External organisations
  • Monash University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes