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PloS one

Quantitative Genetics of the Aging of Reproductive Traits in the Houbara Bustard.


PMID 26218735

Abstract

Do all traits within an organism age for the same reason? Evolutionary theories of aging share a common assumption: the strength of natural selection declines with age. A corollary is that additive genetic variance should increase with age. However, not all senescent traits display such increases suggesting that other mechanisms may be at play. Using longitudinal data collected from more than 5400 houbara bustards (Chlamydotis undulata) with an exhaustive recorded pedigree, we investigated the genetics of aging in one female reproductive trait (egg production) and three male reproductive traits (courtship display rate, ejaculate size and sperm viability), that display senescence at the phenotypic level. Animal models revealed an increase in additive genetic variance with age for courtship display rate and egg production but an unexpected absence of increased additive genetic variance for ejaculate size and no additive genetic variance for sperm viability. Our results suggest that the mechanisms behind the senescence of some traits are linked with a change in genetic expression, whereas for some other traits, aging may result from the constraints associated with physiological wear and tear on the organism throughout the life of the individual.

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