Resource allocation to reproduction in animals

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ABSTRACT

The standard Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model assumes that a fraction κ of mobilised reserve is allocated to somatic maintenance plus growth, while the rest is allocated to maturity maintenance plus maturation (in embryos and juveniles) or reproduction (in adults). All DEB parameters have been estimated for 276 animal species from most large phyla and all chordate classes. The goodness of fit is generally excellent. We compared the estimated values of κ with those that would maximise reproduction in fully grown adults with abundant food. Only 13% of these species show a reproduction rate close to the maximum possible (assuming that κ can be controlled), another 4% have κ lower than the optimal value, and 83% have κ higher than the optimal value. Strong empirical support hence exists for the conclusion that reproduction is generally not maximised. We also compared the parameters of the wild chicken with those of races selected for meat and egg production and found that the latter indeed maximise reproduction in terms of κ, while surface-specific assimilation was not affected by selection. We suggest that small values of κ relate to the down-regulation of maximum body size, and large values to the down-regulation of reproduction. We briefly discuss the ecological context for these findings.

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