The cost of growing large: costs of post-weaning growth on body mass senescence in a wild mammal

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Authors Frédéric Douhard, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Maryline Pellerin, Laurent Jacob, Jean-François Lemaître
Journal/Conference Name OIKOS
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Individual body mass often positively correlates with survival and reproductive success, whereas fitness costs of growing large are rarely detected in vertebrates in the wild. Evidence that adult body mass progressively declines with increasing age is accumulating across mammalian populations. Growing fast to a large body can increase the cellular damage accumulated throughout life, leading body growth in early life to be negatively associated with the rate of body mass senescence. Moreover, the onset of mass senescence may strongly depend on both sex-specific reproductive tactics and environmental conditions. Assessing the timing and the rate of body mass decline with increasing age thus offers an opportunity to look for costs of having grown fast, especially after a poor start during early life, in both sexes and in different environments. Using a unique dataset including 30 years of longitudinal data on age-specific body mass collected in two roe deer Capreolus capreolus populations subjected to contrasted environmental conditions, we looked for potential costs of high post-weaning growth rate in terms of steeper rate of body mass senescence. Our analyses of body mass senescence accounted for the potential variation in the onset of senescence and allowed explicit comparisons of this variable between sexes and populations. Higher growth rates late in the growing period (after weaning) were associated with a steeper rate of body mass senescence, regardless of early mass (gained before weaning), but at different extents depending on sex and environmental conditions. Body mass senescence occurred earlier in males than in females, especially in the population facing limiting resources. In the wild, although heavy individuals generally survive better than small ones, the costs of growing large late in the growing period only became apparent late in life through mass senescence. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Date of publication 2017
Code Programming Language R

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