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Evolution. 2017 Feb;71(2):386-402. doi: 10.1111/evo.13127. Epub 2016 Dec 7.

Repeated intraspecific divergence in life span and aging of African annual fishes along an aridity gradient.

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Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Květná 8, 603 65, Brno, Czech Republic.
Laboratory of Medicinal Diagnostics, Department of Organic Technology, University of Chemistry and Technology, Technická 5, 166 28, Prague, Czech Republic.
Bio@SNS, Scuola Normale Superiore, Department of Neurosciences, Piazza dei Cavalieri 7, 56126, Pisa, Italy.
Fritz Lipmann Institute for Age Research, Leibniz Institute, Beutenbergstr. 11, D-07745, Jena, Germany.
Department of Zoology, Faculty of Sciences, Charles University in Prague, Viničná 7, 128 44, Praha, Czech Republic.


Life span and aging are substantially modified by natural selection. Across species, higher extrinsic (environmentally related) mortality (and hence shorter life expectancy) selects for the evolution of more rapid aging. However, among populations within species, high extrinsic mortality can lead to extended life span and slower aging as a consequence of condition-dependent survival. Using within-species contrasts of eight natural populations of Nothobranchius fishes in common garden experiments, we demonstrate that populations originating from dry regions (with short life expectancy) had shorter intrinsic life spans and a greater increase in mortality with age, more pronounced cellular and physiological deterioration (oxidative damage, tumor load), and a faster decline in fertility than populations from wetter regions. This parallel intraspecific divergence in life span and aging was not associated with divergence in early life history (rapid growth, maturation) or pace-of-life syndrome (high metabolic rates, active behavior). Variability across four study species suggests that a combination of different aging and life-history traits conformed with or contradicted the predictions for each species. These findings demonstrate that variation in life span and functional decline among natural populations are linked, genetically underpinned, and can evolve relatively rapidly.


Intraspecific variation; life span; neoplasia; pace-of-life syndrome; parallel evolution; reproductive senescence

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