Fitness Consequences of Allorecognition-Mediated Agonistic Interactions in the Colonial Hydroid Hydractinia [GM]
The Biological Bulletin
In sessile and sedentary organisms, competition for space may have fitness consequences that depend strongly on ecological context. Colonial hydroids in the genus Hydractinia use an inducible defense when encountering conspecifics, and intraspecific competition is common in natural populations, often resulting in complete overgrowth of subordinate competitors. My goal in this study was to quantify the impacts of agonistic interactions in Hydractinia [GM] (an undescribed species from the Gulf of
... es from the Gulf of Mexico) in terms of three primary fitness components: colony survival, growth rate, and immature gonozooid production. The results demonstrate that the fitness consequences of intraspecific competition depend on the size at which competitive encounters are initiated and the growth form (an indicator of competitive ability) of the competitors. Moreover, some competing colonies consistently produced more immature gonozooids than the controls without competition, and they exhibited extremely low mortality even after 90 days of growth. These results have several ramifications. First, agonistic interactions do not always proceed to competitive elimination. Second, the increase in production of immature gonozooids-an investment in future reproduction-in response to intraspecific competition supports the hypothesis that indeterminately growing organisms increase sexual reproductive effort when growth becomes limiting. Lastly, in light of known ontogenetic variation in the ability of Hydractinia to differentiate among genetically related colonies, strongly size-dependent fitness consequences are consistent with an adaptive, kin-discriminating allorecognition system.