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The trade-off between ageing and reproduction in the context of life histories

By S.A. Vergouwen


Ageing and reproduction are life history traits. In order to reach maximal fitness, the optimal reproductive strategy is necessary. Because ageing results in a decline in fertility, ageing is likely to affect late age reproduction. This article discusses the nature of the trade-off between the process of ageing and early age reproduction, and factors that cause this trade-off to occur. Several theories explain the evolution of ageing and their link with reproduction. With extrinsic mortality being the main cause of death, organisms that are more susceptible to extrinsic hazards will be selected for early maturation. According to the mutation accumulation theory, the absence of purifying selection will result in a higher rate of ageing due to an accumulation of deleterious mutations having their effects late in life. The disposable soma theory suggests a direct trade-off between reproduction and ageing, through the allocation of resources. Energy that is invested in reproduction cannot be invested in somatic repair and maintenance and can lead to a faster rate of ageing. However the acquisition of resources can increase the rate of ageing as well, due to oxidative damage to cells. There appears to be a dynamic trade-off between reproduction and ageing, with environment and the organisms’ susceptibility to extrinsic hazards, the allocation and acquisition of resources being the main determinants in the trade-off.

Year: 2010
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