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J Anim Ecol. 2008 Jan;77(1):66-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01308.x.

Correcting the short-term effect of food deprivation in a damselfly: mechanisms and costs.

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Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, University of Leuven, Ch. Debériotstraat 32, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


1. Mass at emergence is a life-history trait strongly linked to adult fitness. Therefore, when faced with transient food shortage in the larval stage, mass-correcting mechanisms are common. 2. These correcting mechanisms may carry costs with them. On one hand, these costs may be overestimated because they can be confounded with the direct effects of the transient food shortage itself. On the other hand, costs may be underestimated by ignoring physiological costs. Another largely neglected topic is that correcting mechanisms and costs may critically depend upon other stressors that often co-occur. 3. Here, we identify the mass-correcting mechanisms and their associated costs at emergence in the damselfly Coenagrion puella, after being stressed by a transient period of starvation and a subsequent exposure to pesticide stress during the larval stage. We introduce path analysis to disentangle direct costs of starvation and the mass-correcting mechanisms in terms of immune response. 4. As predicted, we found no differences in mass at emergence. Starvation directly resulted in a costly delayed emergence and a decreased immune response at emergence. Mass-correcting mechanisms included a prolonged post-starvation period, reduced mass loss at emergence and compensatory growth, although the latter only in females under pesticide stress. 5. The mass-correcting mechanisms were associated with beneficial effects on investment in immune response, but only in the absence of pesticide stress. Under pesticide stress, these beneficial effects were mostly undone or overruled, resulting in negative effects of the mass-correcting mechanisms in terms of immune response. 6. Our results stress the importance of and introduce a statistical way of disentangling direct costs of starvation and the mass-correcting mechanisms themselves, and the importance of including physiological endpoints in this kind of studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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