, Volume 173, Issue 4, pp 1283–1294 | Cite as

Females better face senescence in the wandering albatross

  • Deborah Pardo
  • Christophe Barbraud
  • Henri Weimerskirch
Population ecology - Original research


Sex differences in lifespan and aging are widespread among animals. Since investment in current reproduction can have consequences on other life-history traits, the sex with the highest cost of breeding is expected to suffer from an earlier and/or stronger senescence. This has been demonstrated in polygynous species that are highly dimorphic. However in monogamous species where parental investment is similar between sexes, sex-specific differences in aging patterns of life-history traits are expected to be attenuated. Here, we examined sex and age influences on demographic traits in a very long-lived and sexually dimorphic monogamous species, the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans). We modelled within the same model framework sex-dependent variations in aging for an array of five life-history traits: adult survival, probability of returning to the breeding colony, probability of breeding and two measures of breeding success (hatching and fledging). We show that life-history traits presented contrasted aging patterns according to sex whereas traits were all similar at young ages. Both sexes exhibited actuarial and reproductive senescence, but, as the decrease in breeding success remained similar for males and females, the survival and breeding probabilities of males were significantly more affected than females. We discuss our results in the light of the costs associated to reproduction, age-related pairing and a biased operational sex-ratio in the population leading to a pool of non-breeders of potentially lower quality and therefore more subject to death or breeding abstention. For a monogamous species with similar parental roles, the patterns observed were surprising and when placed in a gradient of observed age/sex-related variations in life-history traits, wandering albatrosses were intermediate between highly dimorphic polygynous and most monogamous species.


Breeding success Breeding probability Capture–mark–recapture Diomedea exulans Seabird Senescence Sexual dimorphism Survival 



The work, carried out at Ile de la Possession, was supported by the Institut Paul Emile Victor (IPEV program no. 109), Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises, Zone Atelier de Recherches sur l’Environnement Antarctique et Subantarctique (CNRS-INEE), and has been approved by the ethics committee of IPEV and by the Comité de l’Environnement Polaire. We are very grateful to all the field workers involved in the monitoring program over the past 50 years on the wandering albatrosses at Ile de la Possession. We thank Dominique Besson and Karine Delord for the data management. We thank Christophe Bonenfant, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Matthieu Authier and members of D.P.s PhD committee: Emmanuelle Cam, Daniel Oro and Michael Schaub for constructive discussions, Christophe Guinet for giving access to fast computers, and Roger Pradel for help in designing the transition matrices. We also thank two anonymous referees for very constructive comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

442_2013_2704_MOESM1_ESM.doc (286 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 286 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Pardo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christophe Barbraud
    • 1
  • Henri Weimerskirch
    • 1
  1. 1.CEBC-CNRS UPR 1934Villiers-en-BoisFrance
  2. 2.British Antarctic SurveyCambridgeUK

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