Capital versus income breeding in a seasonal environment

Julie Sainmont, Ken Haste Andersen, Oystein Varpe, André W. Visser

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The allocation of resources between growth, storage, and reproduction is a key trade-off in the life-history strategies of organisms. A central dichotomy is between capital breeders and income breeders. Capital breeders build reserves that allow them to spawn at a later time independently of food availability, while income breeders allocate ingested food directly to reproduction. Motivated by copepod studies, we use an analytical model to compare the fitness of income with capital breeding in a deterministic seasonal environment. We analyze how the fitness of breeding strategies depend on feeding season duration and size at maturity. Small capital breeders perform better in short feeding seasons but fall behind larger individuals when the length of the feeding season increases. Income breeding favors smaller individuals as their short generation time allows for multiple generations within a year and thereby achieve a high annual growth rate, outcompeting capital breeders in long feeding seasons. Therefore, we expect to find a dominance of small income breeders in temperate waters, while large capital breeders should dominate high latitudes where the spring is short and intense. This pattern is evident in nature, particularly in organisms with a generation time of a year or less.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)466-476
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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