Individual variation in rates of senescence: natal origin effects and disposable soma in a wild bird population

The Journal of Animal Ecology
Sandra BouwhuisBen C Sheldon


1. Longitudinal studies of various vertebrate populations have recently demonstrated senescent declines in reproductive performance and/or survival probability with age to be almost ubiquitous in nature. Little is known, however, about the extent to which rates of senescence vary between individuals, and about causes or consequences of such variation. Quantifying these links in natural populations is important for understanding the constraints and adaptive processes underlying the evolution of senescence. 2. Here, we analyse breeding data from 1029 female great tits Parus major to quantify the effect of natal conditions and early life reproduction on rates of reproductive senescence, reproductive life span and lifetime reproductive success. 3. Although for locally born females we find no evidence that natal conditions influence rates of reproductive senescence, we show that immigrant females suffer from faster rates of senescence than locally born females, and that this difference contributes to immigrants having a lower lifetime reproductive success. 4. Additionally, and independently, we find rates of reproductive senescence to increase with rates of early life reproduction, as predicted by the disposable soma hypothesis. Des...Continue Reading


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