Kin competition, natal dispersal and the moulding of senescence by natural selection

Ophélie Ronce, Daniel Promislow

Abstract

Most theoretical models for the evolution of senescence have assumed a very large, well mixed population. Here, we investigate how limited dispersal and kin competition might influence the evolution of ageing by deriving indicators of the force of selection, similar to Hamilton (Hamilton 1966 J. Theor. Biol. 12, 12–45). Our analytical model describes how the strength of selection on survival and fecundity changes with age in a patchy population, where adults are territorial and a fraction of juveniles disperse between territories. Both parent–offspring competition and sib competition then affect selection on age-specific life-history traits. Kin competition reduces the strength of selection on survival. Mutations increasing mortality in some age classes can even be favoured by selection, but only when fecundity deteriorates rapidly with age. Population structure arising from limited dispersal however selects for a broader distribution of reproduction over the lifetime, potentially slowing down reproductive senescence. The antagonistic effects of limited dispersal on age schedules of fecundity and mortality cast doubts on the generality of conditions allowing the evolution of ‘suicide genes’ that increase mortality rates without other direct pleiotropic effects. More generally, our model illustrates how limited dispersal and social interactions can indirectly produce patterns of antagonistic pleiotropy affecting vital rates at different ages.

  • Received May 22, 2010.
  • Accepted June 4, 2010.
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