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Senescence in immunity against helminth parasites predicts adult mortality in a wild mammal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1298
Issue number6459
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2019


Our understanding of the deterioration in immune function in old age—immunosenescence—derives principally from studies of modern human populations and laboratory animals. The generality and significance of this process for systems experiencing complex, natural infections and environmental challenges are unknown. Here, we show that late-life declines in an important immune marker of resistance to helminth parasites in wild Soay sheep predict overwinter mortality. We found senescence in circulating antibody levels against a highly prevalent nematode worm, which was associated with reduced adult survival probability, independent of changes in body weight. These findings establish a role for immunosenescence in the ecology and evolution of natural populations.

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