Post-reproductive lifespans are rare in mammals
Ecology and Evolution
Reason for embargo
Currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Wiley. No embargo required on publication
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.
Awaiting citation and DOI