Age-dependent terminal declines in reproductive output in a wild bird

Hammers, M, Richardson, David, Burke, T and Komdeur, J (2012) Age-dependent terminal declines in reproductive output in a wild bird. PLoS One, 7 (7). ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

In many iteroparous species individual fitness components, such as reproductive output, first increase with age and then decline during late-life. However, individuals differ greatly in reproductive lifespan, but reproductive declines may only occur in the period just before their death as a result of an age-independent decline in physiological condition. To fully understand reproductive senescence it is important to investigate to what extent declines in late-life reproduction can be explained by age, time until death, or both. However, the study of late-life fitness performance in natural populations is challenging as the exact birth and death dates of individuals are often not known, and most individuals succumb to extrinsic mortality before reaching old age. Here, we used an exceptional long-term longitudinal dataset of individuals from a natural, closed, and predator-free population of the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis) to investigate reproductive output, both in relation to age and to the time until the death of an individual (reverse-age approach). We observed an initial age-dependent increase in reproductive output that was followed by a decline in old age. However, we found no significant decline in reproductive output in the years directly preceding death. Although post-peak reproductive output declined with age, this pattern differed between terminal and non-terminal reproductive attempts, and the age-dependence of the terminal breeding attempt explained much of the variation in age-specific reproductive output. In fact, terminal declines in reproductive output were steeper in very old individuals. These results indicate that not only age-dependent, but also age-independent factors, such as physiological condition, need to be considered to understand reproductive senescence in wild-living animals.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2013 05:32
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2020 21:46
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/42701
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040413

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