Senescence in relation to latitude and migration in birds


Anders Pape Møller, Laboratoire de Parasitologie Evolutive, CNRS UMR 7103, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bât. A, 7ème étage, 7 quai St Bernard, Case 237, F-75252 Paris Cedex 05, France.
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Senescence is the age-related deterioration of the phenotype, explained by accumulation of mutations, antagonistic pleiotropy, free radicals or other mechanisms. I investigated patterns of actuarial senescence in a sample of 169 species of birds in relation to latitude and migration, by analysing longevity records adjusted for sampling effort, survival rate and body mass. Senescence might decrease at low latitudes because of elevated adult survival rates and generally slow life histories. Alternatively, the rate of senescence might increase at low latitudes because of the greater impact of biological interactions such as parasitism, predation and competition on fitness through differential effects of age-specific mortality (e.g. because immunologically naïve young individuals and immuno-senescent old individuals might die more frequently than individuals belonging to intermediate age classes). Bird migration entails extensive exercise twice annually, with migrants spending more time in benign environments with little abiotic mortality than residents, migrants having higher adult survival rate and lower annual fecundity than residents, and migrants suffering more from the consequences of oxidative stress than residents. The rate of senescence increased with latitude, as expected because of slow life histories at low latitudes. Independently, rate of senescence decreased with increasing migration distance. These findings were robust to control for potentially confounding effects of body mass, age of first reproduction and phenotypic similarity among species because of common descent.