How perceived predation risk shapes patterns of aging in water fleas
Experimental Gerontology, 1–8 (2015)
Predation is an important selection pressure which shapes aging patterns in natural populations, and it is also a significant factor in the life history decisions of individuals. Exposure to the perceived threat of size-dependent fish predation has been shown to trigger adaptive responses in animal life history including an increase in early reproductive output. In water fleas, this response to perceived predation risk appears to have a cost, as a lifespan in an environment free of predation cues is 20% longer. The aim of this study is to establish the biodemographic basis of phenotypic differences in the water flea lifespan which are induced by the cues of fish predation. We examined mortality by fitting the Gompertz-Makeham model of mortality to large cohorts of two cladoceran species, Daphnia longispina and Diaphanosoma brachyurum. Our findings indicate that perceived exposure to the threat of fish predation (induced through chemical cues) only accelerated the rate of aging in Diaphanosoma, and not in Daphnia where the treatment led to an earlier onset of aging. The second of these two phenotypic responses is consistent with the genetically based differences between Daphnia from habitats that differ with respect to predation risk. In contrast, the response of Diaphanosoma demonstrates that the cue of extrinsic mortality-in this case, fish predation-is a key factor in shaping these cladoceran life histories in the wild, and is one of the few interventions which has been shown to induce a plastic change in the rate of aging.