We compare various alternative explanations of why embryo development is sometimes slow relative to juvenile and adult development on the basis of the standard Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model and make the comparison with avian altricial versus precocial development. We discuss the role of the energy investment ratio, which combines four different aspects of DEBs: allocation, assimilation, mobilisation and costs for structure. We show how this ratio affects the morphology of growth curves: the ratio of the slopes at start and birth during embryonic growth, as well as the von Bertalanffy time as function of ultimate length during post-embryonic growth. We propose an extension of the standard DEB model that combines a Gompertz (i.e. exponential) start with a von Bertalanffy 'tail' with a smooth transition; a combination that has been applied frequently in fisheries research and here given a mechanistic significance. Implications are that a slow embryonic development is combined with a fast post-metamorphic one and that parameters at metamorphosis depend on feeding history prior to metamorphosis. Identical individuals, in terms of parameter values and amounts of reserve and structure, will become permanently different when they experience different (local) environments, even if they experience identical environments after metamorphosis. This might explain part of the parameter variation amongst individuals. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.