Post-reproductive lifespans are rare in mammals
Ecology and Evolution
© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
A species has a post-reproductive stage if, like humans, a female entering the adult population can expect to live a substantial proportion of their life after their last reproductive event. However, it is conceptually and statistically challenging to distinguish these true post-reproductive stages from the usual processes of senescence, which can result in females occasionally surviving past their last reproductive event. Hence, despite considerable interest, the taxonomic prevalence of post-reproductive stages remains unclear and debated. In this study we use life tables constructed from published data on wild populations of mammals, and statistical measures of post-reproductive lifespans, to distinguish true post-reproductive stages from artefacts of senescence and demography in 52 species. We find post-reproductive stages are rare in mammals and are limited to humans and a few species of toothed whales. By resolving this long-standing debate, we hope to provide clarity for researchers in the field of evolutionary biology and a solid foundation for further studies investigating the evolution and adaptive significance of this unusual life history trait.
Support for this research was provided by a grant from NERC (NE/K01286X/1) awarded to DPC, DWF and MAC.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 8 (5), pp. 2482-2494.