Developmental patterns of yolk-sac larvae are well captured by the standard deb model: (i) when feeding is delayed post birth the size at which post-feeding growth begins is reduced but the rate of growth post-feeding is unaffected and (ii) maternal effects (initial energy in egg) show up as differences in condition at birth and maximum length of non fed individuals. We extended the standard deb model in two ways to account for starvation. (I): if somatic maintenance can no longer be paid structure is also mobilized to cover the costs, but at an extra cost-conversion efficiency of structure to energy. Death occurs if structure reaches a fraction of the maximum at the onset of shrinking. (II): if maturity maintenance can no longer be paid then maturity level decays exponentially (rejuvenation). Hazard due to rejuvenation is proportional to the difference between maturity and the maximum maturity at the onset of rejuvenation.We performed Monte Carlo simulation studies which treat feeding as a random process to evaluate the contribution of the metabolic handling of starvation to early teleost life history. The simulations suggest that food density strongly impacts growth, energy reserves, mineral fluxes, hazard and mortality from shrinking. Environmental factors can soon override maternal induced differences between individuals. Moreover in the low food density, simulated individuals from eggs of lower caloric content experience mortality from shrinking earlier than their counterparts issued from higher energy eggs. Empirically observed patterns of real data, i.e. high scatter in respiration in combination with low scatter in lengths, can be expected when the metabolism is treated as a deterministic system while behaviourally controlled input is stochastic. At low food densities where mortality from shrinking reaches 10% almost all individuals experience hazard due to rejuvenation. This hazard is difficult to access experimentally but represents moments of heightened susceptibility to pathogens and toxicants and could be ecologically significant. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.