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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Dec 24;93(26):15249-53.

Evolutionary theory predicts late-life mortality plateaus.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92697, USA.


Most demographic data indicate a roughly exponential increase in adult mortality with age, a phenomenon that has been explained in terms of a decline in the force of natural selection acting on age-specific mortality. Scattered demographic findings suggest the existence of a late-life mortality plateau in both humans and dipteran insects, seemingly at odds with both prior data and evolutionary theory. Extensions to the evolutionary theory of aging are developed which indicate that such late-life mortality plateaus are to be expected when enough late-life data are collected. This expanded theory predicts late-life mortality plateaus, with both antagonistic pleiotropy and mutation accumulation as driving population genetic mechanisms.

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