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Evolutionary Ecology of Senescence and a Reassessment of Williams' 'Extrinsic Mortality' Hypothesis.

Authors
  • Moorad, Jacob1
  • Promislow, Daniel2
  • Silvertown, Jonathan3
  • 1 Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Charlotte Auerbach Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FL, UK.
  • 2 Department of Pathology and Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA. Electronic address: https://[email protected]
  • 3 Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Charlotte Auerbach Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FL, UK. Electronic address: https://[email protected]
Type
Published Article
Journal
Trends in ecology & evolution
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2019
Volume
34
Issue
6
Pages
519–530
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.02.006
PMID: 30857756
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

The evolutionary theory of senescence underpins research in life history evolution and the biology of aging. In 1957 G.C. Williams predicted that higher adult death rates select for earlier senescence and shorter length of life, but preadult mortality does not matter to the evolution of senescence. This was subsequently interpreted as predicting that senescence should be caused by 'extrinsic' sources of mortality. This idea still motivates empirical studies, although formal, mathematical theory shows it is wrong. It has nonetheless prospered because it offers an intuitive explanation for patterns observed in nature. We review the flaws in Williams' model, explore alternative explanations for comparative patterns that are consistent with the evolutionary theory of senescence, and discuss how hypotheses based on it can be tested. We argue that focusing on how sources of mortality affect ages differently offers greater insight into evolutionary processes. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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