Age-related variation in reproductive performance is ubiquitous in wild vertebrate populations and has important consequences for population and evolutionary dynamics. The ageing trajectory is shaped by both within-individual processes, such as improvement and senescence, and the among-individual effects of selective appearance and disappearance. To date, few studies have compared the role of these different drivers among species or populations. In this study, we use nearly 40 years of longitudinal monitoring data to contrast the within- and among-individual processes contributing to the reproductive ageing patterns in three albatross species (two biennial and one annual breeder) and test whether these can be explained by differences in life histories. Early-life performance in all species increased with age and was predominantly influenced by within-individual improvements. However, reproductive senescence was detected in only two of the species. In the species exhibiting senescent declines, we also detected a terminal improvement in breeding success. This is suggestive of a trade-off between reproduction and survival, which was supported by evidence of selective disappearance of good breeders. We demonstrate that comparisons of closely related species which differ in specific aspects of their life history can shed light on the ecological and evolutionary forces shaping variation in ageing patterns.
- Bird Island South Georgia
- Black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris
- Grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma
- Life-history trade-off
- Selective disappearance
- Terminal effect
- Wandering albatross Diomedea exulans