Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Disposable Soma Theory

  • Lukas SotolaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2367-1



Organisms must devote limited resources either to produce more offspring or to live longer. Evolutionarily, it is beneficial to sacrifice the latter for the sake of the former.


Senescence is the decrease in an organism’s ability to reproduce and the increase in the chances it will die as it ages. Explaining why senescence evolved at all has long been an issue for evolutionary theory, because any decrease in an organism’s ability to reproduce should be selected against, and senescence – which always ends in death – completely eliminates reproductive potential and occurs in all organisms. Disposable soma theory (DST) was first proposed by Kirkwood (1977) as an evolutionary explanation for this. It posits that a trade-off between reproductive fitness (i.e., an organism’s ability to produce offspring) and longevity (i.e., the number of years an organism lives) is what causes...


Life Span Tissue Defect Average Life Expectancy Additional Child Reproductive Fitness 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Illinois UniversityMacombUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Curtis Dunkel
    • 1
  1. 1.Western Illinois UniversityMacombUSA