Initial theories of ecological stoichiometry were based on the assumption that the mass-specific content of key nutrient elements (such as P), changes little within a consumer species. However, evidence has shown that this content changes substantially according to feeding conditions. To clarify how the specific P content (S P) of a consumer species depends on food conditions and relates to the growth rate, we constructed a multiple mass-balance model incorporating feeding and metabolic costs and stoichiometrically regulated releases for C and P. The validity of the model was then tested experimentally by examining the growth rates and S P of Daphnia pulicaria under various food conditions. The experimental observation agreed qualitatively well with the model, showing that the S P of consumers relates positively to growth rate at high food C:P ratios but negatively at low food C:P ratios. Thus, within a consumer species, individuals with high S P do not necessarily grow at high rates. The concordance in results between the model and our observation suggests that maintenance costs for both P and C are substantial regardless of food conditions and play crucial roles in determining the relationship between the S P and growth rate of consumers.
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