Who-Seung Lee1, Pat Monaghan and Neil B. Metcalfe
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G128QQ United Kingdom
1Present address: Departement des Sciences Biologiques, Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Montreal, Quebec H3C?3P8 Canada.
Corresponding Editor: A. S. Flecker.
Early environmental conditions can influence the pattern of growth and development. While poor conditions generally cause slower growth, normal adult size can still be reached if growth accelerates or is prolonged once conditions improve, but such catch-up growth may have deleterious effects later in life. Here we investigate for the first time how decelerating as well as accelerating growth trajectories, manipulated independently of food supply, affect subsequent breeding performance. In order to alter growth rates we subjected juvenile three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus to a short period of altered environmental temperature (high, intermediate, or low), after which all fish had the same (intermediate) temperature regime. In addition, the perceived time stress (until the onset of the spawning season) was manipulated by conducting the experiment twice (in the winter and in the spring immediately prior to breeding) and by exposing half of the fish in each experiment to a delayed photoperiod (two months behind ambient). We found that fish showed full growth compensation, such that in all treatments they were of the same average size by the start of the breeding season. However, those compensating for low temperatures earlier in life (i.e., who then showed an accelerated growth trajectory) had reduced reproductive investment over the following two breeding seasons (males, reduced sexual ornaments and speed of building nests; females, reduced first clutch size, mean egg size, and eggs produced per year). Moreover, these deleterious effects were strongest when the perceived time available for growth compensation prior to breeding was shortest. In contrast, those fish with a decelerating growth trajectory as a result of exposure to high temperatures early in life showed an improved breeding performance compared to steadily growing controls. These results clearly demonstrate that both the shape of the growth trajectory (independent of food supply) and the time available for growth compensation have broad-reaching and prolonged effects on breeding performance, with ecological conditions that prompt catch-up growth just prior to the breeding season being especially damaging for both sexes.
Key words: compensatory growth;, Gasterosteus aculeatus, investment, life history, phenotypic plasticity, reproduction, temperature, three-spined stickleback, trade-off