The egg production of marine copepods correlates with a range of variables, including the availability of organic carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) 20:5(n-3) (EPA) and 22:6(n-3) (DHA). However, an understanding of which substrates limit egg production in the natural environment has yet to be reached. The quantities of C, N, EPA and DHA ingested, derived from parental biomass, and invested in eggs by female Calanus finmarchicus during a 5-day incubation experiment were examined using stoichiometric theory to determine which substrate was limiting. The majority of each substrate was derived from parental biomass, and therefore the existing stoichiometric theory is developed to include this route of supply. The females were essentially devoid of lipid reserves, as evidenced by the lack of the storage fatty acids 20:1 (n-9) and 22:1 (n-11), and carbon limitation was predicted under most of the scenarios examined. Nitrogen limitation was only apparent when carbon and nitrogen utilisation efficiencies were assumed to be high (0.5) and low (0.4) respectively. PUFAs were assumed to be utilised with high efficiency (0.9), and were never predicted to limit production. This work highlights the need for a more detailed understanding of the maintenance requirements that marine copepods have for C, N, EPA, and DHA and hence the efficiencies with these substrates can be utilised for growth. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.