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Theor Popul Biol. 2009 Feb;75(1):46-55. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2008.10.003. Epub 2008 Oct 31.

Density dependence, lifespan and the evolutionary dynamics of longevity.

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Mathematical Ecology Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


Longevity is a life-history trait that is shaped by natural selection. Evolution will shape mortality trajectories and lifespans, but until now the evolutionary analysis of longevity is based principally on a density-independent (Euler-Lotka) framework. The effects of density dependence on the evolution of lifespan and mortality remain largely unexplored. We investigate the influence of different population demographies on the evolution of longevity, and show how these can be linked to adaptive radiations. We present a range of models to explore the intraspecific and interspecific density effects on longevity and, consequently, diversification. We show how the magnitude, type, and timing of mutation can also affect fitness, invasion and diversification. We argue that fitness of alternative strategies under a range of different demographic structures leads to flat, as opposed to rugged, landscapes and that these flat fitness surfaces are important in the evolution of lifespan and senescence.

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