RIVERSIDE, Calif. University of California, Riverside biologists working on guppies small freshwater fish that have been the subject of long-term studies report that rapid growth responses to increased food availability after a period of growth restriction early in life have repercussions in adulthood.
Based on their experiments, the biologists found that female guppies that grew rapidly as juveniles produced fewer offspring than usual.
Study results appear in the August issue of Ecology Letters.
"When food levels increase after a period of low availability, many organisms including humans undergo what is called 'catch-up' or compensatory growth," explained Sonya Auer, the first author of the research paper and a Ph.D. graduate student in the Department of Biology. "This accelerated growth response allows them to catch up, fully or in part, to the body size they would have achieved under more favorable food conditions.
"We found that female guppies that underwent compensatory growth as juveniles produced less offspring than would be expected for their body size relative to females that underwent normal growth as juveniles," she said. "In the ecological literature, however, theory and empirical research have assumed that juvenile compensatory growth has only a positive effect on reproduction being bigger is better."
"This study is of interest even for human biology," said David Reznick, a professor of biology and Auer's advisor, "because we want to know if there are any such long-term consequences for rapid growth and weight gain early in life."
Auer explained that low early food availability alone does not have negative effects on future reproductive success in guppies.
"The long-term costs to reproduct
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University of California - Riverside