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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Jun 22;273(1593):1443-8.

Senescent birds redouble reproductive effort when ill: confirmation of the terminal investment hypothesis.

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  • 1Universidade de Vigo Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, 36310 Vigo, Spain.


This study reports an experimental confirmation of the terminal investment hypothesis, a longstanding theoretical idea that animals should increase their reproductive effort as they age and their prospects for survival and reproduction decline. Previous correlational and experimental attempts to test this hypothesis have yielded contradictory results. In the blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii, a long-lived bird, after initial increase, male reproductive success declines progressively with age. Before laying, males of two age classes were challenged with lipopolysaccharide to elicit an immune response, which induced symptoms of declining survival prospects. Reproductive success of immune-challenged mature males fell, while that of immune-challenged old males showed a 98% increase. These results demonstrate that senescent males with poor reproductive prospects increase their effort when those prospects are threatened, whereas younger males with good reproductive prospects do not.

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