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Ecol Lett. 2006 Dec;9(12):1342-50.

The rate of senescence in maternal performance increases with early-life fecundity in red deer.


Tradeoffs between reproduction and somatic maintenance are a frequently cited explanation for reproductive senescence in long-lived vertebrates. Between-individual variation in quality makes such tradeoffs difficult to detect and evidence for their presence from wild populations remains scarce. Here, we examine the factors affecting rates of senescence in maternal breeding performance in a natural population of red deer (Cervus elaphus), using a mixed model framework to control for between-individual variance. Senescence began at 9 years of age in two maternal performance traits. In both traits, females that produced more offspring in early life had faster rates of senescence. This tradeoff is evident alongside significant effects of individual quality on late life breeding performance. These results present rare evidence in support of the disposable soma and antagonistic pleiotropy theories of senescence from a wild vertebrate population and highlight the utility of mixed models for testing theories of ageing.

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