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.
Project description:Immune defences often trade off with other life-history components. Within species, optimal allocation to immunity may differ between the sexes or between alternative life-history strategies. White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) are unusual in having two discrete plumage morphs, white-striped and tan-striped. Within each sex, white-striped individuals are more aggressive and provide less parental care than tan-striped individuals. We extended immunocompetence handicap models, which predict sex differences in immunity and parasitism, to hypothesize that infection susceptibility should be greater in white-striped than tan-striped birds. We inoculated birds of both morphs with malarial parasites. Contrary to our prediction, among birds that became infected, parasite loads were higher in tan-striped than white-striped individuals and did not differ between the sexes. Circulating androgen levels did not differ between morphs but were higher in males than females. Our findings are not consistent with androgen-mediated immunosuppression. Instead, morph differences in immunity could reflect social interactions or life-history-related differences in risk of injury, and/or genetic factors. Although plumage and behavioural morphs of white-throated sparrow may differ in disease resistance, these differences do not parallel sex differences that have been reported in animals, and do not appear to be mediated by differences in androgen levels.
Project description:Extrapair mating could drive sexual selection in socially monogamous species, but support for this hypothesis remains equivocal. We used lifetime fitness data and a unique model species, the dimorphic white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), to examine how extrapair mating affects the potential for sexual selection. In this species, the morphs employ distinct reproductive strategies, with white males pursuing extrapair mating at higher rates than tan counterparts. Social and extrapair mating is disassortative by morph, with paternity exchange occurring primarily between pairs composed of white males and tan females. Bateman gradients and Jones indexes indicated stronger sexual selection via mate numbers in white males than in females and tan males, and generally did not differ between females as compared with tan males. Extrapair mating contributed more to the Bateman gradient for white than tan males, and white males also had higher variance in annual reproductive success. However, variance in lifetime reproductive success did not differ between morphs or sexes. Moreover, extrapair mating did not increase variance in male reproductive success relative to apparent patterns, and within-pair success accounted for much more variance than extrapair success. Thus, extrapair mating by white males increases Bateman gradients and the potential for sexual selection via mate numbers. However, our latter results support previous research suggesting that extrapair mating may play a limited role in driving the overall potential for sexual selection.
Project description:Aging, or senescence, is a progressive deterioration of physiological function with age. It leads to age-related declines in reproduction (reproductive senescence) and survival (actuarial senescence) in most organisms. However, senescence patterns can be highly variable across species, populations, and individuals, and the reasons for such variations remain poorly understood. Evolutionary theories predict that increases in reproductive effort in early life should be associated with accelerated senescence, but empirical tests have yielded mixed results. Although in sexually size-dimorphic species offspring of the larger sex (typically males) commonly require more parental resources, these sex differences are not currently incorporated into evolutionary theories of aging. Here, we show that female reproductive senescence varies with both the number and sex ratio of offspring weaned during early life, using data from a long-term study of bighorn sheep. For a given number of offspring, females that weaned more sons than daughters when aged between 2 and 7 y experienced faster senescence in offspring survival in old age. By contrast, analyses of actuarial senescence showed no cost of early-life reproduction. Our results unite two important topics in evolutionary biology: life history and sex allocation. Offspring sex ratio may help explain among-individual variation in senescence rates in other species, including humans.
Project description:Males and females frequently differ in their rates of ageing, but the origins of these differences are poorly understood. Sex differences in senescence have been hypothesized to arise, because investment in intra-sexual reproductive competition entails costs to somatic maintenance, leaving the sex that experiences stronger reproductive competition showing higher rates of senescence. However, evidence that sex differences in senescence are attributable to downstream effects of the intensity of intra-sexual reproductive competition experienced during the lifetime remains elusive. Here, we show using a 35 year study of wild European badgers (Meles meles), that (i) males show higher body mass senescence rates than females and (ii) this sex difference is largely attributable to sex-specific downstream effects of the intensity of intra-sexual competition experienced during early adulthood. Our findings provide rare support for the view that somatic maintenance costs arising from intra-sexual competition can cause both individual variation and sex differences in senescence.
Project description:Population dynamics of long-lived vertebrates depend critically on adult survival, yet factors affecting survival and covariation between survival and other vital rates in adults remain poorly examined for many taxonomic groups of long-lived mammals (e.g. actuarial senescence has been examined for only 9 of 34 extant pinniped species using longitudinal data). We used mark-recapture models and data from 2795 Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) pups individually marked at four of five rookeries in southeastern Alaska (SEAK) and resighted for 21 years to examine senescence, annual variability and covariation among life-history traits in this long-lived, sexually dimorphic pinniped. Sexes differed in age of onset (approx. 16-17 and approx. 8-9 years for females and males, respectively), but not rate (-0.047 and -0.046/year of age for females and males) of senescence. Survival of adult males from northern SEAK had greatest annual variability (approx. ±0.30 among years), whereas survival of adult females ranged approximately ±0.10 annually. Positive covariation between male survival and reproductive success was observed. Survival of territorial males was 0.20 higher than that of non-territorial males, resulting in the majority of males alive at oldest ages being territorial.
Project description:Senescence is shaped by age-dependent trade-offs between fitness components. Because males and females invest different resources in reproduction, the trade-offs behind age-dependent reproductive effort should be resolved differently in the sexes. In this study, we assess the effects of diet (high carbohydrate and low protein vs. equal carbohydrate and protein) and mating (once mated vs. virgin) on lifespan and age-dependent mortality in male and female field crickets (Teleogryllus commodus), and on male calling effort. Females always had higher actuarial ageing rates than males, and we found a clear lifespan cost of mating in females. Mated males, however, lived longer than virgin males, possibly because virgins call more than mated males. The fastest age-dependent increases in mortality were among mated males on the high-carbohydrate diet. Males on a high-carbohydrate diet showed a faster increase in calling effort earlier in life, and a more pronounced pattern of senescence once they reached this peak than did males on a diet with equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Our results provide evidence that the cost of mating in this cricket species is both diet and sex-dependent, and that the underlying causes of sex differences in life-history traits such as lifespan and senescence can be complex.
Project description:Uncovering factors that shape variation in brain morphology remains a major challenge in evolutionary biology. Recently, it has been shown that brain size is positively associated with level of parental care behavior in various taxa. One explanation for this pattern is that the cognitive demands of performing complex parental care may require increased brain size. This idea is known as the parental brain hypothesis (PBH). We set out to test the predictions of this hypothesis in wild populations of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). These fish are commonly known to exhibit (1) uniparental male care and (2) sexual dimorphism in brain size (males>females). To test the PBH, we took advantage of the existence of closely related populations of stickleback that display variation in parental care behavior: common marine threespine sticklebacks (uniparental male care) and white threespine sticklebacks (no care). To begin, we quantified genetic differentiation among two common populations and three white populations from Nova Scotia. We found overall low differentiation among populations, although F ST was increased in between-type comparisons. We then measured the brain weights of males and females from all five populations along with two additional common populations from British Columbia. We found that sexual dimorphism in brain size is reversed in white stickleback populations: males have smaller brains than females. Thus, while several alternatives need to be ruled out, the PBH appears to be a reasonable explanation for sexual dimorphism in brain size in threespine sticklebacks.
Project description:Sex differences in the foraging ecology of monomorphic species are poorly understood, due to problems with gender identification in field studies. In the current study, we used experimental conditions to investigate the food preferences of the white stork Ciconia ciconia, an opportunistic species in terms of food, but characterised by a low level of sexual dimorphism. During a 10-day experiment, 29 individuals (20 females and 9 males) were studied by means of a 'cafeteria test' in which the storks' diet consisted of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, insects and earthworms. The storks preferred food characterised by high calorific and protein values such as mammals, birds and fish. Sexes differed strongly in their preferences; males preferred mammals, whereas females preferred birds. Moreover, females consumed insects and earthworms less often than males. Interestingly, males spent significantly less time foraging than females. We have demonstrated that the white stork exhibits clear sexual differences in food preferences which are mostly attributable to differences in parental duties, physiology and anatomy.
Project description:Sexual dimorphism can result from sexual or ecological selective pressures, but the importance of alternative reproductive roles and trait compensation in generating phenotypic differences between the sexes is poorly understood. We evaluated morphological and behavioral sexual dimorphism in striped bark scorpions (Centruroides vittatus). We propose that reproductive roles have driven sexually dimorphic body mass in this species which produces sex differences in locomotor performance. Poor locomotor performance in the females (due to the burden of being gravid) favors compensatory aggression as part of an alternative defensive strategy, while male morphology is coadapted to support a sprinting-based defensive strategy. We tested the effects of sex and morphology on stinging and sprinting performance and characterized overall differences between the sexes in aggressiveness towards simulated threats. Greater body mass was associated with higher sting rates and slower sprinting within sexes, which explained the greater aggression of females (the heavier sex) and, along with longer legs in males, the improved sprint performance in males. These findings suggest females are aggressive to compensate for locomotor costs of reproduction while males possess longer legs to enhance sprinting for predator evasion and mate finding. Sexual dimorphism in the metasoma ("tail") was unrelated to stinging and sprinting performance and may best be explained by sexual selection.
Project description:Food availability modulates survival in interaction with (for example) competition, disease and predators, but to what extent food availability in natural populations affects survival independent of these factors is not well known. We tested the effect of food availability on lifespan and actuarial senescence in a large population of captive zebra finches by increasing the effort required to obtain food, reflecting natural contrasts in food availability. Food availability may not affect all individuals equally and we therefore created heterogeneity in phenotypic quality by raising birds with different numbers of siblings. Low food availability had no effect on lifespan for individuals from benign developmental conditions (raised in small broods), but shortened lifespan for individuals from harsh developmental conditions. The lifespan difference arose through higher baseline mortality rate of individuals from harsh developmental conditions, despite a decrease in the rate of actuarial senescence. We found no evidence for sex-specific environmental sensitivity, but females lived shorter than males due to increased actuarial senescence. Thus, low food availability by itself shortens lifespan, but only in individuals from harsh developmental conditions. Our food availability manipulation resembles dietary restriction as applied to invertebrates, where it extends lifespan in model organisms and we discuss possible reasons for the contrasting results.