Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Morbey, Brassil & Hendry in American Naturalist (November 2005) 166(5).


Copyright 2005, University of Chicago. Used by permission.


Any useful evolutionary theory of senescence must be able to explain variation within and among natural populations and species. This requires a careful characterization of age-specific mortality rates in nature as well as the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence these rates. We perform this task for two populations of semelparous Pacific salmon. During the breeding season, estimated daily mortality rates increased from 0 to 0.2–0.5 (depending on the year) over the course of several weeks. Early-arriving individuals had a later onset and/or a lower rate of senescence in each breeding season, consistent with adaptive expectations based on temporal variation in selection. Interannual variation in senescence was large, in part because of extrinsic factors (e.g., water temperature). Predation rates were higher in Pick Creek sockeye salmon (anadromous Oncorhynchus nerka) than in Meadow Creek kokanee (nonanadromous O. nerka), but in contrast to evolutionary theory, senescence was not more rapid in the former. Interannual variation may have obscured interpopulation divergence in senescence. Pacific salmon are a promising system for further studies on the physiological, evolutionary, and genetic bases of senescence. In particular, we encourage further research to disentangle the relative importance of adaptive and nonadaptive variation in senescence.

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