Journal Article

Evolution of aging: individual life history trade-offs and population heterogeneity account for mortality patterns across species

Le Cunff, Y., Baudisch, A., Pakdaman, K.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 27:8, 1706–1720 (2014)


A broad range of mortality patterns has been documented across species, some even including decreasing mortality over age. Whether there exist a common denominator to explain both similarities and differences in these mortality patterns remains an open question. The disposable soma theory, an evolutionary theory of aging, proposes that universal intracellular trade-offs between maintenance/lifespan and reproduction would drive aging across species. The disposable soma theory has provided numerous insights concerning aging processes in single individuals. Yet, which specific population mortality patterns it can lead to is still largely unexplored. In this article, we propose a model exploring the mortality patterns which emerge from an evolutionary process including only the disposable soma theory core principles. We adapt a well-known model of genomic evolution to show that mortality curves producing a kink or mid-life plateaus derive from a common minimal evolutionary framework. These mortality shapes qualitatively correspond to those of Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, medflies, yeasts and humans. Species evolved in silico especially differ in their population diversity of maintenance strategies, which itself emerges as an adaptation to the environment over generations. Based on this integrative framework, we also derive predictions and interpretations concerning the effects of diet changes and heat-shock treatments on mortality patterns.
Keywords: ageing, behavior, mortality
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.