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Testing for genetic trade-offs between early- and late-life reproduction in a wild red deer population.

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Nussey, Daniel H 
Wilson, Alastair J 
Morris, Alison 
Pemberton, Josephine 
Clutton-Brock, Timothy  ORCID logo


The antagonistic pleiotropy (AP) theory of ageing predicts genetically based trade-offs between investment in reproduction in early life and survival and performance in later life. Laboratory-based research has shown that such genetic trade-offs exist, but little is currently known about their prevalence in natural populations. We used random regression 'animal model' techniques to test the genetic basis of trade-offs between early-life fecundity (ELF) and maternal performance in late life in a wild population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) on the Isle of Rum, Scotland. Significant genetic variation for both ageing rates in a key maternal performance measure (offspring birth weight) and ELF was present in this population. We found some evidence for a negative genetic covariance between the rate of ageing in offspring birth weight and ELF, and also for a negative environmental covariance. Our results suggest rare support for the AP theory of ageing from a wild population.



Age Factors, Animals, Animals, Wild, Body Weight, Deer, Female, Fertility, Genetic Variation, Models, Genetic, Regression Analysis

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Proc Biol Sci

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The Royal Society