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Proc Biol Sci. 2002 Oct 22;269(1505):2113-9.

Strong influences of larval diet history on subsequent post-settlement growth in the freshwater mollusc Dreissena polymorpha.

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Limnological Institute, University of Konstanz, 78434 Konstanz, Germany.


A significant seasonal variation in size at settlement has been observed in newly settled larvae of Dreissena polymorpha in Lake Constance. Diet quality, which varies temporally and spatially in freshwater habitats, has been suggested as a significant factor influencing the life history and development of freshwater invertebrates. Accordingly, experiments were conducted with field-collected larvae to test the proposal that diet quality can determine planktonic larval growth rates, size at settlement and subsequent post-metamorphic growth rates. Larvae were fed one of two diets or starved. One diet was composed of cyanobacterial cells, which are deficient in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and the other was a mixed diet rich in PUFAs. Freshly metamorphosed animals from the starvation treatment had a carbon content per individual 70% lower than that of larvae fed the mixed diet. This apparent exhaustion of larval internal reserves resulted in a 50% reduction of the post-metamorphic growth rates. Growth was also reduced in animals previously fed the cyanobacterial diet. Hence, low food quantity or low food quality during the larval stage of D. polymorpha, lead to irreversible effects for post-metamorphic animals and are related to inferior competitive abilities.

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