, Volume 166, Issue 3, pp 615-626
Date: 01 Feb 2011

Effects of recruiting age on senescence, lifespan and lifetime reproductive success in a long-lived seabird

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Theories of ageing predict that early reproduction should be associated with accelerated reproductive senescence and reduced longevity. Here, the influence of age of first reproduction on reproductive senescence and lifespan, and consequences for lifetime reproductive success (LRS), were examined using longitudinal reproductive records of male and female blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) from two cohorts (1989 and 1991). The two sexes showed different relationships between age of first reproduction and rate of senescent decline: the earlier males recruited, the faster they experienced senescence in brood size and breeding success, whereas in females, recruiting age was unrelated to age-specific patterns of reproductive performance. Effects of recruiting age on lifespan, number of reproductive events and LRS were cohort- and/or sex-specific. Late-recruiting males of the 1989 cohort lived longer but performed as well over the lifetime as early recruits, suggesting the existence of a trade-off between early recruitment and long lifespan. In males of the 1991 cohort and females of both cohorts, recruiting age was apparently unrelated to lifespan, but early recruits reproduced more frequently and fledged more chicks over their lifetime than late recruits. Male boobies may be more likely than females to incur long-term costs of early reproduction, such as early reproductive senescence and diminished lifespan, because they probably invest more heavily than females. In the 1991 cohort, which faced the severe environmental challenge of an El Niño event in the first year of life, life-history trade-offs of males may have been masked by effects of individual quality.

Communicated by Christopher Johnson.