Age-related variation in reproductive traits in the wandering albatross: evidence for terminal improvement following senescence

Hannah Froy, Richard A Phillips, Andrew G Wood, Daniel H Nussey, Sue Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The processes driving age-related variation in demographic rates are central to understanding population and evolutionary ecology. An increasing number of studies in wild vertebrates find evidence for improvements in reproductive performance traits in early adulthood, followed by senescent declines in later life. However, life history theory predicts that reproductive investment should increase with age as future survival prospects diminish, and that raised reproductive investment may have associated survival costs. These non-mutually exclusive processes both predict an increase in breeding performance at the terminal breeding attempt. Here, we use a 30-year study of wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) to disentangle the processes underpinning age-related variation in reproduction. Whilst highlighting the importance of breeding experience, we reveal senescent declines in performance are followed by a striking increase in breeding success and a key parental investment trait at the final breeding attempt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-649
Number of pages8
JournalEcology Letters
Volume16
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Keywords

  • Ageing
  • breeding experience
  • cost of reproduction
  • demographic variation
  • Diomedea exulans
  • history theory
  • reproductive effort
  • seabird
  • terminal investment

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