Current versus future reproduction and longevity: A re-evaluation of predictions and mechanisms


Oxidative damage is predicted to be a mediator of trade-offs between current reproduction and future reproduction or survival, but most studies fail to support such predictions. We suggest that two factors underlie the equivocal nature of these findings: (1) investigators typically assume a negative linear relationship between current reproduction and future reproduction or survival, even though this is not consistently shown by empirical studies; and (2) studies often fail to target mechanisms that could link interactions between sequential life-history events. Here, we review common patterns of reproduction, focusing on the relationships between reproductive performance, survival and parity in females. Observations in a range of species show that performance between sequential reproductive events can decline, remain consistent or increase. We describe likely bioenergetic consequences of reproduction that could underlie these changes in fitness, including mechanisms that could be responsible for negative effects being ephemeral, persistent or delayed. Finally, we make recommendations for designing future studies. We encourage investigators to carefully consider additional or alternative measures of bioenergetic function in studies of life-history trade-offs. Such measures include reactive oxygen species production, oxidative repair, mitochondrial biogenesis, cell proliferation, mitochondrial DNA mutation and replication error and, importantly, a measure of the respiratory function to determine whether measured differences in bioenergetic state are associated with a change in the energetic capacity of tissues that could feasibly affect future reproduction or lifespan. More careful consideration of the life-history context and bioenergetic variables will improve our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the life-history patterns of animals.

Publication Title

Journal of Experimental Biology