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Energy allocation trade-offs between life-history traits in the Mediterranean sardine: an ecophysiological approach

Anaïs Beauvieux*, Quentin Queiros, Luisa Metral, Gilbert Dutto, Eric Gasset, François Criscuolo, Jean-Marc Fromentin, Claire Saraux, Quentin Schull

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Since 2008 there has been a major decrease in the numbers of old and large sardines in the Gulf of Lions, which has had a major effect on regional fisheries. A bottom-up process involving a shift in diet towards smaller planktonic prey has been suggested as the main driver of this development. Yet, the sardines’ reproductive capacities have not altered, suggesting potential modifications in energy allocation trade-offs. Whether this could also affect maintenance, in particular at the end of the winter reproductive period, and explain the lower adult survival and the disappearance of older individuals remains unclear. We therefore experimentally investigated the consequences of the seasonal food availability (summer vs winter) on sardine life-history traits and energy allocation trade-offs at the individual and population levels. Our results indicate that food resources during summer had a major effect on energy reserves and growth, limiting the maximum size and body condition reached at the end of reproduction. In addition, food restrictions during growth and/or reproduction periods led to physiological costs mediated by increased oxidative damage. Mediterranean sardines did not show any ability for compensatory growth and did not appear to be ‘capital breeders'. Instead, they displayed individual differences in dealing with physiological constraints and displayed various life history strategies regardless of food availability. We highlighted 3 main individual energy allocation strategies: (1) preferential allocation to body condition, (2) growth or (3) simultaneous allocation to reproduction and growth. These issues are key, as climate change is expected to favour smaller phytoplankton, which might amplify the deterioration in the condition of pelagic fish.