Journal Article

The effect of post-reproductive lifespan on the fixation probability of beneficial mutations

Giaimo, S., Baudisch, A.
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.

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.