Senescence rates are determined by ranking on the fast-slow life-history continuum

Owen R. Jones, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Shripad Tuljapurkar, Jussi S. Alho, Kenneth B. Armitage, Peter H. Becker, Pierre Bize, Jon Brommer, Anne Charmantier, Marie Charpentier, Tim Clutton-Brock, F. Stephen Dobson, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Lars Gustafsson, Henrik Jensen, Carl G. Jones, Bo-Goeran Lillandt, Robin McCleery, Juha Merila, Peter NeuhausMalcolm A. C. Nicoll, Ken Norris, Madan K. Oli, Josephine Pemberton, Hannu Pietiainen, Thor Harald Ringsby, Alexandre Roulin, Bernt-Erik Saether, Joanna M. Setchell, Ben C. Sheldon, Paul Michael Thompson, Henri Weimerskirch, E. Jean Wickings, Tim Coulson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

277 Citations (Scopus)


Comparative analyses of survival senescence by using life tables have identified generalizations including the observation that mammals senesce faster than similar-sized birds. These generalizations have been challenged because of limitations of life-table approaches and the growing appreciation that senescence is more than an increasing probability of death. Without using life tables, we examine senescence rates in annual individual fitness using 20 individual-based data sets of terrestrial vertebrates with contrasting life histories and body size. We find that senescence is widespread in the wild and equally likely to occur in survival and reproduction. Additionally, mammals senesce faster than birds because they have a faster life history for a given body size. By allowing us to disentangle the effects of two major fitness components our methods allow an assessment of the robustness of the prevalent life-table approach. Focusing on one aspect of life history - survival or recruitment - can provide reliable information on overall senescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-673
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
Early online date28 Apr 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008


  • aging
  • comparative analysis
  • demography
  • generation time
  • metabolic rate
  • senescence
  • age-specific survival
  • basal metabolic-rate
  • reproductive-performance
  • evolutionary-theories
  • natural-populations
  • bighorn sheep
  • alces-alces
  • long-term
  • selection
  • mammals
  • Aging


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