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Sex differences in senescence: the role of intra-sexual competition in early adulthood.

Research paper by Christopher C Beirne, Richard R Delahay, Andrew A Young

Indexed on: 15 Jul '15Published on: 15 Jul '15Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society



Abstract

Males and females frequently differ in their rates of ageing, but the origins of these differences are poorly understood. Sex differences in senescence have been hypothesized to arise, because investment in intra-sexual reproductive competition entails costs to somatic maintenance, leaving the sex that experiences stronger reproductive competition showing higher rates of senescence. However, evidence that sex differences in senescence are attributable to downstream effects of the intensity of intra-sexual reproductive competition experienced during the lifetime remains elusive. Here, we show using a 35 year study of wild European badgers (Meles meles), that (i) males show higher body mass senescence rates than females and (ii) this sex difference is largely attributable to sex-specific downstream effects of the intensity of intra-sexual competition experienced during early adulthood. Our findings provide rare support for the view that somatic maintenance costs arising from intra-sexual competition can cause both individual variation and sex differences in senescence.