Palaemonetes zariquieyi, an endemic palaemonid species of shrimp that lives in freshwater and brackish coastal habitats in eastern Spain, shows an abbreviated, non-feeding larval development comprising only three zoeal stages. To identify the endogenous bioenergetic fuel that allows for food-independent development from hatching to metamorphosis, larvae were reared under controlled laboratory conditions, and ontogenetic changes in dry weight (W), elemental (CHN), and lipid composition (total lipids, principal lipid classes, and fatty acids [FA]) were quantified at the onset of each zoeal stage and in the first juvenile. Values of W, C, and H per larva and per mass unit of W decreased throughout the time of larval development, while the N content showed only a weak decline (suggesting strong lipid but only little protein degradation). Correspondingly, directly measured values of total lipids (both in ?g/larva and in % of W) decreased gradually, with neutral lipids (NL) consistently remaining the predominant and most strongly used fraction; sterol esters and waxes were not detected. In contrast to the NL, the fraction of polar lipids (PL) per larva remained stable and, as a consequence, tended to increase as a percentage of total lipids. Likewise, other important lipid fractions such as free FA and cholesterol remained stable throughout the time of larval development. Among the FA, palmitic (16:0), oleic (18:1n?9), linoleic (18:2n?6), and eicosapentaenoic (20:5n?3) acid were predominant, showing a significant decrease during larval development; stearic (18:0), vaccenic (18:1n?7), and arachidonic acid (20:4n?6) were found only in small amounts. Our results indicate that the lecithotrophic development of P. zariquieyi is primarily fuelled by the utilization of lipids (especially triacylglycerides and other NL), which is reflected by a decreasing carbon content. Proteins and PL, by contrast, are preserved as structurally indispensable components (nerve and muscle tissues, cell membranes). The abbreviated and non-feeding mode of larval development of P. zariquieyi may have an adaptive value in land-locked freshwater habitats, where planktonic food limitation is likely to occur. The patterns of reserve utilization are similar to those previously observed in other palaemonid shrimps and various other groups of decapod crustaceans with lecithotrophic larvae. This suggests a multiple convergent evolution of bioenergetic traits allowing for reproduction in food-limited aquatic environments.