Ontogeny of performance in vertebrates

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jan-Feb 2006;79(1):1-6. doi: 10.1086/498196. Epub 2005 Nov 23.


When competing for food or other resources, or when confronted with predators, young animals may be at a disadvantage relative to adults because of their smaller size. Additionally, the ongoing differentiation and growth of tissues and the development of sensory-motor integration during early ontogeny may constrain performance. Because ectothermic vertebrates show different growth regimes and energetic requirements when compared to endothermic vertebrates, differences in the ontogenetic trajectories of performance traits in these two groups might be expected. However, both groups of vertebrates show similar patterns of changes in performance with ontogeny. Evidence for compensation, resulting in relatively high levels of performance in juveniles relative to adults, appears common for traits related to locomotor and defensive behaviors. However, there is little evidence for compensation in traits associated with feeding and foraging. We suggest that this difference may be due to different selective regimes operating on locomotor versus feeding traits. As a result, relatively high levels of locomotor performance in juveniles and relatively high levels of feeding performance in adults are observed across a wide range of vertebrate groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Vertebrates / anatomy & histology
  • Vertebrates / growth & development*
  • Vertebrates / physiology*