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Keywords:

  • capture-mark-recapture;
  • evolution of ageing;
  • insects;
  • juvenile hormone;
  • senescence

Abstract

Senescence, a decline in survival and reproductive prospects with age, is controlled by hormones. In insects, juvenile hormone (JH) is involved in senescence with captive individuals, but its effect under natural conditions is unknown. We have addressed this gap by increasing JH levels in young and old wild males of the damselfly Hetaerina americana. We assessed survival in males that were treated with a JH analogue (methoprene), which is known to promote sexual activity, and an immune challenge, which is known to promote terminal investment in reproduction in the studied species. We replicated the same procedure in captivity (to control for environmental variation), where males were deprived of any activity or food. We expected old males to show the lowest survival after being treated with JH and immune-challenged, because the effect of terminal investment on senescence would be exacerbated by JH. However, this should be the case for wild animals, but not for captive animals, as the effects of JH and immune challenge should lead to an increase in high energetic-demanding activities only occurring in the wild. Old animals died sooner compared with young animals in both the wild and captivity, confirming that males are subject to senescence. In wild but not captive animals, JH decreased survival in young males and increased it in old males, confirming that JH is sensitive to the environment when shaping animal senescence. Immune challenge had no effect on survival, suggesting no effect of terminal investment on senescence. Additionally, contrary to the expected effects of terminal investment, with an immune challenge, recapture rates increased in young males and decreased in old males. Our results show that male senescence in the wild is mediated by JH and that terminal investment does not cause senescence. One explanation is that animals undergoing senescence and terminal investment modify their feeding behaviour to compensate for their physiological state.