Growing rapidly in teen years would result in giving birth to fewer children later on, confirmed a study that used guppies for the research.
"When food levels increase after a period of low availability, many organisms - including humans - undergo what is called 'catch-up' or compensatory growth," explained Sonya Auer, the first author of the research paper and a Ph.D. graduate student in the Department of Biology.
The researchers placed the fishes on low food for two weeks followed by a return to normal food levels, and found that female guppies that underwent compensatory growth as juveniles produced less offspring than would be expected for their body size.
"This accelerated growth response allows them to catch up, fully or in part, to the body size they would have achieved under more favourable food conditions," she said.
"The long-term costs to reproduction we observed in our experiments appear to result from the compensatory growth response," she added.
The research could help understand how humans respond to changes in their environment, such as food availability, and what are the consequences of those changes.
Study results appear in the August issue of Ecology Letters.