Developmental decisions are important in organismal fitness. For the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which is naturally found in the ephemeral food patches formed by rotting plant material, correctly committing to dauer or non-dauer larval development is key to genotype survival. To investigate the link between reproductive traits, which will determine how populations grow, and dauer larvae formation, we have analysed these traits in mutation accumulation lines of C. elegans. We find that reproductive traits of individual worms—the total number of progeny and the timing of progeny production—are highly correlated with the population size observed in growing populations. In contrast, we find no relationship between reproduction traits and the number of dauer larvae observed in growing populations. We also do not observe a mutational bias in dauer larvae formation. These results indicate that the control of dauer larvae formation is distinct from the control of reproduction and that differences in dauer larvae formation can evolve rapidly.
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