Evol Ecol Res 7: 89-104 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Behavioural and physiological responses to food availability and predation risk

Erik G. Noonburg1* and Roger M. Nisbet2

1Centre for Mathematical Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada and  2Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: noonburg@math.ualberta.ca


Several empirical studies have demonstrated the existence of intraspecific variation in age and size at reproductive maturity for organisms experiencing different food environments and predation risk. For some species, these changes have been shown to arise primarily through changes in foraging activity. Theoretically, changes in age and size at maturity can arise through either behavioural or physiological responses. Here we analyse two models. The first is a conventional life-history model with no explicit recognition of the physiology of energy utilization by the organism – growth (i.e. weight gain) is simply the difference between assimilation and respiration, and there are no physiological restrictions on the timing of maturation. The changes in age and size at maturity in response to food availability and predation risk predicted by this model are consistent with published experimental data for one particular species, the midge Chironomus tentans. Numerical calculations with parameters appropriate to this species suggest that the optimal response is purely behavioural. The second model is a general, dynamic energy budget model that takes account of the energetic costs associated with development to reproductive maturity. With that model, we prove that the optimum partitioning of energy between growth and development is independent of predation risk and food availability, thereby demonstrating the generality of the previous finding with the life-history model. On the basis of the combined insight from the two models, we propose that fixed allocation to growth and development, despite variation in food availability and predation risk, is optimal for a broad class of life histories. Consequently, the absence of an allocation response to experimental manipulation of food or predators should not necessarily be taken as evidence for physiological or other constraints on life-history adaptation.

Keywords: age at maturity, Chironomidae, foraging activity, growth curve, life history, optimization, resource allocation, size at maturity.

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        © 2005 Erik G. Noonburg. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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