Interspecific Homeostatic Regulation and Growth Across Aquatic Invertebrate Detritivores: A Test of Ecological Stoichiometry Theory

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Across resource quality gradients, primary consumers must regulate homeostasis and release of nutrients to optimize growth and fitness. Based primarily on internal body composition, the ecological stoichiometry theory (EST) offers a framework to generalize interspecific patterns of these responses, yet the predictions and underlying assumptions of EST remain poorly tested across many species. We used controlled laboratory feeding experiments to measure homeostasis, nutrient release, and growth across seven field-collected aquatic invertebrate detritivore taxa fed wide resource carbon:nitrogen (C:N) and carbon:phosphorus (C:P) gradients. We found that most invertebrates exhibited strict stoichiometric homeostasis (average 1/H = − 0.018 and 0.026 for C:N and C:P, respectively), supporting assumptions of EST. However, the stoichiometry of new tissue production during growth intervals (growth stoichiometry) deviated − 30 to + 54% and − 145 to + 74% from initial body C:N and C:P, respectively, and across species, growth stoichiometry was not correlated with initial body stoichiometry. Notably, smaller non- and hemimetabolous invertebrates exhibited low, decreasing growth C:N and C:P, whereas larger holometabolous invertebrates exhibited high, often increasing growth C:N and C:P. Despite predictions of EST, interspecific sensitivity of egestion stoichiometry and growth rates to the resource gradient were weakly related to internal body composition across species. While the sensitivity of these patterns differed across taxa, such differences carried a weak phylogenetic signal and were not well predicted by EST. Our findings suggest that traits beyond internal body composition, such as feeding behavior, selective assimilation, and ontogeny, are needed to generalize interspecific patterns in consumer growth and nutrient release across resource quality gradients.

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