Resource limitation, predation risk and compensatory growth in a damselfly
Periods of poor nutrition during early development may have negative fitness consequences in subsequent periods of ontogeny. In insects, suppression of growth and developmental rate during the larval stage are likely to affect size and timing of maturity, which in turn may lead to reduced reproductive success or survivorship.
In light of these costs, individuals may achieve compensatory growth via behavioural or physiological mechanisms following food limitation. In this study, we examined the effects of a temporary period of food restriction on subsequent growth and age and size at maturity in the larval damselfly Ischnura verticalis (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). We also asked whether this temporary period of reduced nutrition affected subsequent foraging behaviour under predation risk. I. verticalis larvae exposed to a temporary food shortage suffered from a reduced growth rate during this period relative to a control group that was fed ad libitum. However, increased growth rates later in development ensured that adult body size measurements (head and pronotum widths) did not differ between the treatments upon emergence. In contrast, adult dry mass did not catch up to that of the controls, indicating that the increased growth rates for size dimensions occur at the cost of similar gains in mass. Predators reduced foraging effort of larvae, but this reduction did not differ between control larvae and those previously exposed to poor nutrition.