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Am Nat. 2010 Dec;176(6):818-29. doi: 10.1086/657061. Epub 2010 Oct 25.

Phenotypic plasticity in adult life-history strategies compensates for a poor start in life in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata).

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


Low food availability during early growth and development can have long-term negative consequences for reproductive success. Phenotypic plasticity in adult life-history decisions may help to mitigate these potential costs, yet adult life-history responses to juvenile food conditions remain largely unexplored. I used a food-manipulation experiment with female Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) to examine age-related changes in adult life-history responses to early food conditions, whether these responses varied across different adult food conditions, and how these responses affected overall reproductive success. Guppy females reared on low food as juveniles matured at a later age, at a smaller size, and with less energy reserves than females reared on high food as juveniles. In response to this setback, they changed their investment in growth, reproduction, and fat storage throughout the adult stage such that they were able to catch up in body size, increase their reproductive output, and restore their energy reserves to levels comparable to those of females reared on high food as juveniles. The net effect was that adult female guppies did not merely mitigate but surprisingly were able to fully compensate for the potential long-term negative effects of poor juvenile food conditions on reproductive success.

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