3 years ago

Age-specific reproduction and disposable soma in an urban population of Common Blackbirds Turdus merula

Dawid Zyskowski, Dariusz Wysocki, Łukasz Jankowiak
The mechanism of senescence is an important subject of current research, but our knowledge of the factors influencing the rate of ageing in naturally occurring populations remains rudimentary. Evolutionary theories of senescence predict that investment in reproduction in early life should come at the cost of reduced somatic maintenance and thus result in earlier or more rapid senescence. We use data on the complete reproductive histories of 431 Common Blackbirds (222 males and 209 females) collected during a 19-year study of the ecology of an urban population of this species to test the main hypotheses addressing the issue of senescence. On average, the birds in this population survived for 3.7 (± 1.9 sd) years. Reproductive success in females peaked at the age of 4, but in males remained stable until the 5th year of life. We observed declines in reproductive success, indicative of senescence, after the peak years in both sexes. The mechanism of age-related changes in the reproduction of females confirms the individual improvement and selective disappearance hypotheses. In the case of males, the increase in reproductive performance comes as a consequence of the disappearance of poor reproducers. The parental investment associated with early life fecundity (the first two breeding seasons in males and females) impairs the breeding success of females later on. Contrary to expectations, there was no negative impact of high early life fecundity on either mortality or lifespan. Individuals of both sexes with a high early life fecundity had a higher lifetime reproductive success than those in which early life fecundity was low. Hence, the most profitable strategy is to maximize reproductive effort in the early stages of life. This yields the highest lifetime reproductive success, despite the increased impact of senescence, especially in females. These results are consistent with the disposable soma hypothesis.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12512

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