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Ecol Lett. 2007 Oct;10(10):867-72.

Lifespan is unrelated to investment in reproduction in populations of mammals and birds in captivity.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Missouri-St Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, St Louis, MO 63121-4499, USA.


We examined the relationship between number of offspring produced to a certain age and subsequent longevity in captive zoo populations of 18 species of mammal and 12 species of bird. The age cut-offs in each analysis were set to include 50%, 75% and 90% of the offspring produced in each of the population samples. Only one of 68 regressions was significant, and its slope was positive. In addition, we examined the relationship between age at first reproduction up to a certain age and longevity after that age, generally 5 years (3-8), among 17 species of mammal and 12 species of bird. Only one of these regressions had a significantly positive slope, indicating that early reproduction rarely reduces lifespan. Overall, we found no evidence that producing offspring in a zoo environment influences the age at death. Thus, although trade-offs might apply in natural populations under resource limitation, neither pregnancy, growth of the foetus and lactation in mammals, nor egg production in birds, reduces lifespan in the absence of such stress. If genetically based or other intrinsic antagonistic pleiotropy underlies the evolution of senescence, it was not evident in our analyses.

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