Many species up- or downregulate their resting metabolic rate (RMR) when they encounter favourable or unfavourable feeding conditions, respectively. This is thought to promote faster growth when food is abundant and conserve energy reserves when food is scarce. The time it takes to express metabolic plasticity remain little studied. Here, we develop a conceptual model showing how rapid or slow metabolic plasticity alter growth trajectories in response to changes in food supply. We test predictions from the model in a food manipulation experiment with young-of-the-year northern pike, Esox lucius, a species that experience drastic changes in food supply in nature. We find that metabolic plasticity is expressed gradually over several weeks in this species. Rapid changes in food supply thus caused apparent trait-environment mismatches that persisted for at least five weeks. Contrary to predictions, pike grew faster at high food levels when they had previously experienced low food levels and downregulated their RMR. This was not owing to increases in food intake but probably reflected that low RMRs increased the energetic scope for growth when feeding conditions improved. This highlights the important but complex effects of metabolic plasticity on growth dynamics under variable resource levels on ecologically relevant time scales.
|Journal||Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 2022|
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- metabolic plasticity
- time course