A dynamic threshold model for terminal investment

  • Kristin R. Duffield
  • E. Keith Bowers
  • Scott K. Sakaluk
  • Ben M. Sadd
Invited Review


Although reproductive strategies can be influenced by a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, life history theory provides a rigorous framework for explaining variation in reproductive effort. The terminal investment hypothesis proposes that a decreased expectation of future reproduction (as might arise from a mortality threat) should precipitate increased investment in current reproduction. Terminal investment has been widely studied, and a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic cues that elicit such a response have been identified across an array of taxa. Although terminal investment is often treated as a static strategy, the level at which a cue of decreased future reproduction is sufficient to trigger increased current reproductive effort (i.e., the terminal investment threshold) may depend on the context, including the internal state of the organism or its current external environment, independent of the cue that triggers a shift in reproductive investment. Here, we review empirical studies that address the terminal investment hypothesis, exploring both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that mediate its expression. Based on these studies, we propose a novel framework within which to view the strategy of terminal investment, incorporating factors that influence an individual’s residual reproductive value beyond a terminal investment trigger—the dynamic terminal investment threshold.


Residual reproductive value Life history evolution Condition-dependent reproductive investment Fecundity compensation Phenotypic plasticity 



We thank I. Krams and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments that improved this manuscript.

Funding information

This research was funded, in part, by grants from the National Science Foundation IOS 16-54028 (SKS and BMS), Illinois State University Summer Faculty Fellowship and Faculty Research Award (SKS), and National Institutes of Health 2R15HD076308-02A1 (SKS and C.F. Thompson).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin R. Duffield
    • 1
  • E. Keith Bowers
    • 2
  • Scott K. Sakaluk
    • 1
  • Ben M. Sadd
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavior, Ecology, Evolution & Systematics Section, School of Biological SciencesIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences and Edward J. Meeman Biological StationUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA

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