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Rapid growth, early maturation and short generation time in African annual fishes

Radim Blažek, Matej Polačik and Martin Reichard*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Květná 8 60365, Brno, Czech Republic

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EvoDevo 2013, 4:24  doi:10.1186/2041-9139-4-24

Published: 4 September 2013



Extreme environmental conditions can give rise to extreme adaptations. We document growth, sexual maturation and fecundity in two species of African annual fish inhabiting temporary savanna pools.


Nothobranchius kadleci started to reproduce at the age of 17 days and size of 31 mm and Nothobranchius furzeri at 18 days and 32 mm. All four study populations demonstrated rapid growth rates of up to 2.72 mm/day (23.4% of their total length). Both species may produce diapausing embryos or embryos that are able to hatch in as few as 15 days, resulting in a minimum generation time as short as only one month. Incubation on the surface of damp peat moss results in high embryo survival (73%) and a high proportion of rapidly developing embryos (58%) that skip diapauses and hatch in less than 30 days. We further demonstrated that rapid growth and maturation do not compromise subsequent fecundity.


Our data suggest that both species have the most rapid sexual maturation and minimum generation time of any vertebrate species, and that rapid maturity does not involve paedogenesis.

Extreme life history; Annual fish; Explosive growth; Rapid maturation; Generation time; Killifish; Diapause; Vertebrate; Reaction norm; Savanna