Effects of food availability on reproductive output, offspring quality and reproductive efficiency in the apple snail Pomacea canaliculata.
Phenotypic plasticity in life history traits favors the establishment of invaders and may magnify their ecological impacts. Pomacea canaliculata, the only freshwater snail listed among the 100 worst invaders worldwide, is able to complete its life cycle within a wide range of conditions, a capacity attributed to its life history plasticity. Using snails from their native range in Argentina we investigated the changes in fecundity, egg mass traits, offspring quality, and efficiency of food conversion into eggs in response to different levels of food availability throughout different life stages. Pre-maturity mortality was not affected by chronic reductions of up to 80% in food availability. Females fed ad libitum demonstrated no significant reproductive output differences when mated with males raised at different food availability levels. For females, the number and total weight of eggs and the size of egg masses decreased at high levels of food deprivation. Their efficiency of conversion into eggs of the food ingested during the reproductive period increased with deprivation, as did the survival time of their offspring. In contrast, the egg mass laying rate and the individual egg weight did not differ under different food availability regimes. Reductions in food availability have been suggested as a control method but our results indicate that fecundity would be lessened only at deprivation levels higher than 50% and would be partially compensated by an increase in hatchling survival.