The effect of post-reproductive lifespan on the fixation probability of beneficial mutations
PLoS One, 10:7, e0133820 (2015)
Post-reproductive lifespan is a common trait among mammals and is usually considered to be neutral; i.e. with no influence on population dynamics. Here, we explore the role of post-reproductive lifespan in the fixation probability of beneficial genetic variation. We compare two separate, stationary populations living in a constant environment that are equivalent except for the average time their respective members spend in the post-reproductive stage of life. Using a recently derived approximation, we show that fixation of a beneficial mutation is more likely in the population with greater post-reproductive longevity. This finding is surprising, as the population with more prolonged post-reproductive lifespan has smaller effective size and the classic population-genetic model would suggest that decreasing effective size reduces fixation chances of beneficial mutations. Yet, as we explain, in the age-structured case, when effective size gets smaller because of longer post-reproductive lifespan but census size is kept equal, a beneficial mutation has a higher likelihood to get fixed because it finds itself at higher initial frequency.