Metazoans must develop from zygotes to feeding organisms. In doing so, developing offspring consume up to 60% of the energy provided by their parent. The cost of development depends on two rates: metabolic rate, which determines the rate that energy is used; and developmental rate, which determines the length of the developmental period. Both development and metabolism are highly temperature-dependent such that developmental costs should be sensitive to the local thermal environment. Here, we develop, parameterize and test developmental cost theory, a physiologically explicit theory that reveals that ectotherms have narrow thermal windows in which developmental costs are minimized (Topt). Our developmental cost theory-derived estimates of Topt predict the natural thermal environment of 71 species across seven phyla remarkably well (R2 ~0.83). Developmental cost theory predicts that costs of development are much more sensitive to small changes in temperature than classic measures such as survival. Warming-driven changes to developmental costs are predicted to strongly affect population replenishment and developmental cost theory provides a mechanistic foundation for determining which species are most at risk. Developmental cost theory predicts that tropical aquatic species and most non-nesting terrestrial species are likely to incur the greatest increase in developmental costs from future warming.
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We thank B. Comerford, M. Parascandalo and L. Morris for assistance. This work was supported by funding to the Centre for Geometric Biology, Monash University.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Marshall, D.J., Pettersen, A.K., Bode, M. et al. Developmental cost theory predicts thermal environment and vulnerability to global warming. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 406–411 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1114-9
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