The effects of long-term starvation and subsequent refeeding on intermediary and energy metabolism were investigated in two subterranean aquatic crustaceans, Niphargus rhenorhodanensis and Niphargus virei, and in a morphologically similar surface-dwelling species, Gammarus fossarum. The metabolic response to prolonged food deprivation was monophasic in G. fossarum, showing an immediate, linear and large decline in all of the energy reserves. In contrast, both subterranean organisms displayed successive periods of glucidic, proteo-glucidic then lipidic-dominant catabolism during food deprivation. In both subterranean species, lipids (51 % of the energy consumed during a 180-day starvation period) and proteins (44 %) were the most metabolized substrates in terms of total energy, whereas glycogen (5 %) contributed little energy. G. fossarum displayed a different energetic strategy: proteins comprised 56 % of the energy losses during a 28-day starvation period, total lipids some 39 % and glycogen reserves only 5 %. We propose an energy strategy for food-limited subterranean crustaceans involving the possession of (1) higher amounts of stored arginine phosphate, triglycerides and glycogen and (2) lower utilization rates of stored metabolites than G. fossarum and numerous other surface-dwelling crustaceans, making the fueling of food deprivation possible for a longer time. In addition, these species had a faster and more efficient assimilation of available nutrients during recovery from food deprivation, enabling preparation for a new nutritional stress. These specific adaptive responses might be considered, for N. virei and N. rhenorhodanensis, as an efficient energy-saving strategy for an environment where extended starvation periods alternate with sporadic feeding events, therefore improving their competitive advantages.

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