Reproductive senescence in a short-lived fish.

Affiliation

Žák J(1)(2), Reichard M(1)(3).
Author information:
(1)Institute of Vertebrate Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno, Czech Republic.
(2)Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.
(3)Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.

Abstract

Reproductive senescence is an age-associated decline in reproductive performance, which often arises as a trade-off between current and future reproduction. Given that mortality is inevitable, increased allocation into current reproduction is favoured despite costs paid later in life. This assumption is violated in organisms with post-maturity growth whose reproductive output increases long after maturity. While reproductive senescence is frequently studied in animals with determinate growth at maturity, such as insects or mammals, we have very limited understanding of reproductive senescence in organisms with an extensive post-maturity growth period. The fact that many post-maturity growers experience strong adult mortality leads to conflicting expectations for reproductive senescence. The aim of this study was to investigate how co-occurrence of rapid life history and post-maturity growth mould reproductive senescence in a short-lived killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri, using longitudinal data on laboratory and wild-type populations. We followed the individual fecundity, fertility and fertilization of 132 singly housed fish from the perspectives of chronological and biological age. At the onset of senescence, the sex-specific contribution to decrease in fertilization capacity was investigated. Allocation trade-offs were estimated through the association between reproductive parameters and life span, and between early-life and late-life fecundity. We demonstrate that female fecundity increased steadily after maturity and reproductive senescence occurred long after the growth asymptote. The prime age for fecundity coincided with 50% female survival and consequent decline in fecundity implies an association with somatic deterioration. Reproductive senescence in fertilization rate was stronger in females than in males. Females with high early fecundity experienced a long life span and high late-life fecundity, discounting the role of allocation trade-offs in reproductive senescence. The present study reports a clear case of reproductive senescence in a fish with a long post-maturation growth period, unusually rapid development and short life span. The onset of reproductive senescence was postponed compared to animals that cease growing at sexual maturity. Fish and other animals with post-maturity growth have long been considered insusceptible to ageing but this conclusion may be related to the previous lack of longitudinal data rather than to the absence of reproductive senescence in such organisms.