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Winter compensatory growth under field conditions partly offsets low energy reserves before winter in a damselfly


  • Marjan De Block,

  • Mark A. McPeek,

  • Robby Stoks

M. De Block ( and R. Stoks, Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Univ. of Leuven, Ch. Debériotstraat 32, BE-3000 Leuven, Belgium. – M. A. McPeek, Dept of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


Despite the survival value of high energy reserves during winter, animals often face energy deficits when entering winter. Compensatory growth in energy reserves during the winter period to buffer such deficits may increase winter survival and alleviate the need for costly compensatory mechanisms before or after winter when predation risk is much higher. However, such compensatory responses in energy reserves during winter have not been demonstrated under field conditions. We explored if Lestes eurinus damselfly larvae can compensate for suboptimal energy reserves during winter at 4°C when their ponds are covered with ice. In a field enclosure experiment, we demonstrated compensatory growth in terms of body mass and energy reserves in larvae whose energy status was previously manipulated in the laboratory. These results were supported by patterns in body mass and energy reserves over winter in two natural unmanipulated populations. Winter survival was high overall and not affected by compensatory growth. We hypothesize that the observed compensatory growth in energy reserves during winter may shape life history decisions in autumn and spring, and may make resource availability during winter as or more important than energy reserves before winter.