Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 998–1007
Compensatory or ‘catch-up’ growth may be an adaptive mechanism that buffers the growth trajectory of young organisms from deviations caused by reduced food availability. Theory generally assumes that rapid juvenile compensatory growth impacts reproduction only through its positive effects on age and size at maturation, but potential reproductive costs to juvenile compensatory growth remain virtually unexplored. We used a food manipulation experiment to examine the reproductive consequences of compensatory growth in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Compensatory growth did not affect adult growth rates, litter production rates or investment in offspring size. However, compensatory growth had negative effects on litter size, independent of the effects of female body length, resulting in a 20% decline in offspring production. We discuss potential mechanisms behind this observed cost to reproduction.