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Actuarial senescence in a dimorphic bird: different rates of ageing in morphs with discrete reproductive strategies.


ABSTRACT: It is often hypothesized that intra-sexual competition accelerates actuarial senescence, or the increase in mortality rates with age. However, an alternative hypothesis is that parental investment is more important to determining senescence rates. We used a unique model system, the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), to study variation in actuarial senescence. In this species, genetically determined morphs display discrete mating strategies and disassortative pairing, providing an excellent opportunity to test the predictions of the above hypotheses. Compared to tan-striped males, white-striped males are more polygynous and aggressive, and less parental. Tan-striped females receive less parental support, and invest more into parental care than white-striped females, which are also more aggressive. Thus, higher senescence rates in males and white-striped birds would support the intra-sexual competition hypothesis, whereas higher senescence rates in females and tan-striped birds would support the parental investment hypothesis. White-striped males showed the lowest rate of actuarial senescence. Tan-striped females had the highest senescence rate, and tan-striped males and white-striped females showed intermediate, relatively equal rates. Thus, results were inconsistent with sexual selection and competitive strategies increasing senescence rates, and instead indicate that senescence may be accelerated by female-biased parental care, and lessened by sharing of parental duties.

SUBMITTER: Grunst ML 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6283936 | BioStudies | 2018-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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