• Ecological stoichiometry;
  • growth rate;
  • phosphorus;
  • polyploidy;
  • Potamopyrgus antipodarum;
  • sexual reproduction

Evolutionary and ecological factors that explain natural variation in ploidy level remain poorly understood. One intriguing possibility is that nutrient costs associated with higher per-cell nucleic acid content could differentially influence the fitness of different ploidy levels. Here, we test this hypothesis by determining whether access to phosphorus (P), a main component of nucleic acids, differentially affects growth rate in asexual freshwater snails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) that differ in ploidy. As expected if larger genomes generate higher dietary P requirements, tetraploid P. antipodarum experienced a more than twofold greater reduction in growth rate in low-P versus high-P conditions relative to triploids. Mirroring these results, tetraploid P. antipodarum also had a significant reduction in body P content under low P relative to high P, whereas triploid body P content was unaffected. Taken together, these results set the stage for the possibility that P availability could influence the distribution and relative frequency of P. antipodarum of different ploidy levels. These findings could be applicable to many other animal taxa featuring ploidy-level variation, which includes many mixed sexual/asexual taxa.