While chemicals from previously desiccated larvae can inform as to possible drying of pools in a relatively short time, reducing water levels can serve as a more reliable predictor of imminent pond drying and risk of desiccation. In the second part of the study, the researchers manipulated the water-levels for both groups, to simulate actual drying or non-drying conditions. They found that, after a while, the larvae will adjust their initial rates of development according to the actual water levels of their ponds.
However, they also found that accelerated development carries costs: larvae that developed more quickly suffered greater rates of mortality. Larvae that falsely perceived the pond environment as long-lasting, and thus started life with a slow developmental rate, but then realized their misperception and compensated with significant acceleration, suffered the greatest rates of mortality. The physiological mechanisms underlying these costs are unknown, but are thought to involve both cellular causes such as oxidative damage from increased metabolic rates, and tissue-level causes such as overexploitation of undifferentiated stem cells or disrupted balance between the differentiation and growth of different tissues in the body. These physiological costs may also lead to increased vulnerability to environmental stresses other than drying, such as heat, disease and parasites, and might result in death.
According to Sadeh, these results are consistent with those of recent studies on the costs of acceleration in growth following starvation in various other organisms, including insects, fish, amphibians and mammals. He suggests that this ca
|Contact: Rachel Feldman|
University of Haifa