Predation cost of rapid growth: behavioural coupling and physiological decoupling


Robby Stoks, Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, University of Leuven, Ch. de Bériotstraat 32, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Tel: + 32 16 32 37 10; Fax: + 32 16 32 45 75; E-mail:


  • 1Despite its prominent role in life-history theory, there is no direct empirical evidence for a behaviourally mediated predation cost of rapid growth. Moreover, we know little about how digestive physiology may also influence the shape of the growth/predation risk trade-off function.
  • 2We determined the role of behaviour and digestive physiology in experiments in which damselfly larvae were induced to grow slowly or rapidly by manipulating photoperiod (time stress), and exposure to a fish predator.
  • 3We showed that larvae under time stress grew more rapidly. Rapid-growing larvae had a higher foraging activity and a higher growth efficiency.
  • 4Under predation risk, larvae not only had a lower foraging activity but also a lower growth efficiency.
  • 5Rapid-growing larvae (i.e. those under time stress) balanced the growth/predation risk trade-off differently and took more risk in the presence of a predator, which resulted in a behaviourally mediated higher predation cost compared to slow-growing larvae. Their higher growth efficiency, however, made this cost smaller compared to a completely behaviourally mediated rapid-growth strategy.
  • 6Our results provide the first explicit experimental proof of a behaviourally mediated predation cost of rapid growth. Besides a behavioural coupling of growth and predation risk, resulting in the well-known trade-off, we also found a partial decoupling of these two processes by digestive physiology.