When bigger is not better: Selection against large size, high condition and fast growth in juvenile lemon sharks

J. D. DiBattista, K. A. Feldheim, S. H. Gruber, A. P. Hendry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Selection acting on large marine vertebrates may be qualitatively different from that acting on terrestrial or freshwater organisms, but logistical constraints have thus far precluded selection estimates for the former. We overcame these constraints by exhaustively sampling and repeatedly recapturing individuals in six cohorts of juvenile lemon sharks (450 age-0 and 255 age-1 fish) at an enclosed nursery site (Bimini, Bahamas). Data on individual size, condition factor, growth rate and inter-annual survival were used to test the 'bigger is better', 'fatter is better' and 'faster is better' hypotheses of life-history theory. For age-0 sharks, selection on all measured traits was weak, and generally acted against large size and high condition. For age-1 sharks, selection was much stronger, and consistently acted against large size and fast growth. These results suggest that selective pressures at Bimini may be constraining the evolution of large size and fast growth, an observation that fits well with the observed small size and low growth rate of juveniles at this site. Our results support those of some other recent studies in suggesting that bigger/fatter/faster is not always better, and may often be worse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-212
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Directional selection
  • Lemon shark
  • Life history
  • Marine environment
  • Morphological traits
  • Negaprion
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Selection coefficients
  • Viability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Palaeontology
  • Genetics


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