Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Zajitschek, Brassil, Bonduriansky & Brooks in ECOLOGY (2009) 90(6).


Copyright 2009, Ecological Society of America. Used by permission.


Males and females allocate and schedule reproductive effort in very different ways. Because the timing and amount of reproductive effort influence survival and thus the optimization of life histories, mortality and senescence are predicted to be sex specific. However, age-specific mortality rates of wild animals are often difficult to quantify in natural populations. Studies that report mortality rates from natural populations are, therefore, almost entirely confined to long-lived, easy-to-track species such as large mammals and birds. Here, we employ a novel approach using capture–mark–recapture data from a wild population of black field crickets (Teleogryllus commodus) to test for sex differences in demographic aging. In this species, the age of captured adults cannot be readily determined, and animals cannot be reliably captured or observed every night, resulting in demographic data on individuals whose dates of birth and death are unknown. We implement a recently developed life-table analysis for wild-caught individuals of unknown age, in combination with a well-established capture–mark–recapture methodology that models probabilistic dates of death. This unified analytical framework makes it possible to test for aging in wild, hard-to track animals. Using these methods to fit Gompertz models of age-specific mortality, we show that male crickets have higher mortality rates throughout life than female crickets. Furthermore, males and females both exhibit increasing mortality rates with age, indicating senescence, but the rate of senescence is not sex specific. Thus, observed sex differences in longevity are probably due to differences in baseline mortality rather than aging. Our findings illustrate the complexity of the relationships between sex, background mortality, and senescence rate in wild populations, showing that the elevated mortality rate of males need not be coupled with an elevated rate of aging.

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