Organisms partition their resources among growth, maintenance, and reproduction and, when resources become limiting, the allocation to one process necessitates reduced allocation to others. When starved, Caenorhabditis elegans adults retain progeny internally which then consume the parent body contents, and some of those larvae use the resources to reach the resistant, long-lived dauer stage. If starved under similarly extreme conditions, larvae from eggs laid outside of the body are unable to develop into dauers. We interpret this switch from ovipary, or laying eggs, to bearing live young as facultative vivipary. This switch is induced by starvation of late fourth-stage larvae, young adults, or gravid adults. In C. elegans, vivipary is the altruistic allocation of all available parental energy and nutrients to progeny, with the associated costs to adult hermaphrodites of truncated life span and fecundity. As a life-history trait, facultative vivipary is a survival-enhancing response to stress that may provide insights into the evolution of reproduction and longevity.
Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; bagging; life history; longevity; reproduction; survival strategy; vivipary.