Previous experiments suggest that males spend more time with the more receptive of 2 novel females or the one with the higher fitness potential. However, males often court individual females repeatedly over a season; for example, male lizards sequentially visit familiar females as they patrol territorial boundaries. It may benefit males to vary display intensity as they move between multiple females. In this study, we explored the factors influencing amount of male courtship to familiar females in the sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus. We tested whether males vary the amount of courtship exhibited due to individual differences among males, female reproductive state, or female fitness potential. Each male was allowed to interact separately, but repeatedly, with 2 females until both females laid eggs. Male courtship behavior with each of the 2 females was assayed at an intermediate point, after 3 weeks of interaction. We found that individual differences among males were considerable. The number of male courtship displays was also positively correlated with female latency to lay eggs, with males displaying more often toward females with eggs that had not yet been fertilized. Courtship behavior was not well predicted by the number of eggs laid or by female width, both measures of female quality. Thus, male S. graciosus appear to alter courtship intensity more in response to signals of female reproductive state than in response to variation in potential female fitness.
courtship; male choice; mate choice; reproductive state; Sceloporus graciosus; sexual selection
Previous experiments suggest that males spend more time with the more receptive of two novel females or the one with the higher fitness potential. However, males often court individual females repeatedly over a season; for example, male lizards sequentially visit familiar females as they patrol territorial boundaries. It may benefit males to vary display intensity as they move between multiple females. In this study, we explored the factors influencing amount of male courtship to familiar females in the Sagebrush lizard, Sceloporus graciosus. We tested whether males vary the amount of courtship exhibited due to individual differences among males, female reproductive state, or female fitness potential. Each male was allowed to interact separately, but repeatedly, with two females until both females laid eggs. Male courtship behavior with each of the two females was assayed at an intermediate point, after three weeks of interaction. We found that individual differences among males were considerable. The number of male courtship displays was also positively correlated with female latency to lay eggs, with males displaying more often towards females with eggs that had not yet been fertilized. Courtship behavior was not well predicted by the number of eggs laid or by female width, both measures of female quality. Thus, male S. graciosus appear to alter courtship intensity more in response to signals of female reproductive state than in response to variation in potential female fitness.
Sceloporus graciosus; male choice; mate choice; sexual selection; reproductive state; courtship
Compromise of immune function during reproduction may form a link between parental effort and the cost of reproduction, but the role of environmental variation in structuring intra-individual life-history trade-offs has been poorly investigated. We manipulated the need for parental effort in Eurasian kestrels, Falco tinnunculus, by food-supplementing broods for three nestling periods, during which the natural main food supply (voles) varied, and found that parental parasitaemia was inversely related to yearly vole densities. The level of parasitaemia in females was, however, reduced by food supplements. No effect on males was expected, as earlier work has shown that only females responded to the supplements by changing their behaviour. We show directly that the likelihood of female parasitaemia was diminished by spending less time in flight-hunting, which was related to reproduction during a good vole year, to our supplementary feeding, and to being mated to a male with high parental effort. Our results represent a novel direct benefit for females in resource - providing species, linked to female, as well as offspring, well-being, and they provide insight into why the appearance of reproductive costs may be linked to gender or environmental conditions.
Organisms in the wild are constantly faced with a wide range of environmental variability, such as fluctuation in food availability. Poor nutritional conditions influence life-histories via individual resource allocation patterns, and trade-offs between competing traits. In this study, we assessed the influence of food restriction during development on the energetically expensive traits flight metabolic rate (proxy of dispersal ability), encapsulation rate (proxy of immune defence), and lifespan using the Glanville fritillary butterfly, Melitaea cinxia, as a model organism. Additionally, we examined the direct costs of flight on individual immune function, and whether those costs increase under restricted environmental conditions. We found that nutritional restriction during development enhanced adult encapsulations rate, but reduced both resting and flight metabolic rates. However, at the individual level metabolic rates were not associated with encapsulation rate. Interestingly, individuals that were forced to fly prior to the immune assays had higher encapsulation rates than individuals that had not flown, suggesting that flying itself enhances immune response. Finally, in the control group encapsulation rate correlated positively with lifespan, whereas in the nutritional restriction group there was no relationship between these traits, suggesting that the association between encapsulation rate on adult lifespan was condition-dependent. Thus stressful events during both larval development (food limitation) and adulthood (forced flight) induce increased immune response in the adult butterflies, which may allow individuals to cope with stressful events later on in life.
The main prediction of life-history theory is that optimal energy allocated among the traits is related to the growth, maintenance and survival. It is hypothesized that the optimal resource allocated to immune function, which generates resistance towards parasites and reduce the fitness losses caused by parasitism, is depending on other requirements for energetic resource and the benefits associated with them. The aims of this study are to investigate in a comparative way (1) how parasitism is related to fish life history traits (fecundity, longevity, mortality), (2) whether there is a trade-off between reproduction and immune investments in fish females (i.e. energetic hypothesis) and in males (i.e. immunohandicap hypothesis), (3) whether parasitism influences host immunity (spleen size) and reproduction (gonad size) in females and males.
Data on metazoan parasites of 23 cyprinid fish species from Central Europe were used for the analyses as well as new data collected from a field study. Ectoparasite species richness was negatively correlated with the fish mortality estimated by the k-value and positively correlated with fish body size, suggesting that parasite diversity increases with fish longevity. A negative relationship between spleen size and gonad size, controlling for fish body size, was found in females but not in males. Moreover, parasite abundance was positively correlated with fish spleen size and negatively with fish gonad size in females.
The comparative analyses using cyprinid fish species demonstrated that natural mortality could be considered as a factor contributing to the variability of parasite species richness and moreover, parasite species benefit from long-lived fish. The results obtained from the analyses investigating the potential trade-off between reproduction and immunity could be interpreted as an energetic trade-off between female reproduction and immune function. The lack of negative relationship between gonad size and spleen size in males did not support our prediction based on the immunohandicap hypothesis.
Life-history theory predicts that organisms trade off survival against reproduction. However, the time scales on which various consequences become evident and the physiology mediating the cost of reproduction remain poorly understood. Yet, explaining not only which mechanisms mediate this trade-off, but also how fast or slow the mechanisms act, is crucial for an improved understanding of life-history evolution. We investigated three time scales on which an experimental increase in body mass could affect this trade-off: within broods, within season and between years. We handicapped adult skylarks (Alauda arvensis) by attaching extra weight during first broods to both adults of a pair. We measured body mass, immune function and return rates in these birds. We also measured nest success, feeding rates, diet composition, nestling size, nestling immune function and recruitment rates.
When nestlings of first broods fledged, parent body condition had not changed, but experimental birds experienced higher nest failure. Depending on the year, immune parameters of nestlings from experimental parents were either higher or lower than of control nestlings. Later, when parents were feeding their second brood, the balance between self-maintenance and nest success had shifted. Control and experimental adults differed in immune function, while mass and immune function of their nestlings did not differ. Although weights were removed after breeding, immune measurements during the second brood had the capacity to predict return rates to the next breeding season. Among birds that returned the next year, body condition and reproductive performance a year after the experiment did not differ between treatment groups.
We conclude that the balance between current reproduction and survival shifts from affecting nestlings to affecting parents as the reproductive season progresses. Furthermore, immune function is apparently one physiological mechanism involved in this trade-off. By unravelling a physiological mechanism underlying the trade-offs between current and future reproduction and by demonstrating the different time scales on which it acts, our study represents an important step in understanding a central theory of life-history evolution.
Birds; Cost of reproduction; Ecoimmunology; Ecophysiology; Immunity; Life history; Carry-over effect; Avian
Life history trade-offs have often been assumed to be the consequence of restrictions in the availability of critical resources such as energy and nutrients, which necessitate the differential allocation of resources to costly traits. Here, we examined endocrine (testosterone) and health (parasite burdens) parameters in territorial and non-territorial New Zealand fur seal males. We documented intra-sexual differences in sexual behaviours, testosterone levels, and parasitism that suggest a trade-off exists between reproductive success and physical health, particularly susceptibility to helminths and acanthocephalans, in males displaying different mating tactics (i.e., territorial and non-territorial tactics). Levels of testosterone were higher in territorial males and correlated positively with reproductive effort (i.e., intra- and inter-sexual interactions). However, these territorial males also exhibited high levels of parasitic infection, which may impair survival in the long-term. Our study, while limited in sample size, provides preliminary evidence for a link between male mating tactics, testosterone levels and parasite loads, and potential effects on reproductive success and life history that should be explored further.
Life history theory assumes there are trade-offs between competing functions such as reproduction and immunity. Although well studied in birds, studies of the trade-offs between reproduction and immunity in small mammals are scarce. Here we examined whether reduced immunity is a consequence of reproductive effort in lactating Brandt's voles (Lasiopodomys brandtii). Specifically, we tested the effects of lactation on immune function (Experiment I). The results showed that food intake and resting metabolic rate (RMR) were higher in lactating voles (6≤ litter size ≤8) than that in non-reproductive voles. Contrary to our expectation, lactating voles also had higher levels of serum total Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and anti-keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) IgG and no change in phytohemagglutinin (PHA) response and anti-KLH Immunoglobulin M (IgM) compared with non-reproductive voles, suggesting improved rather than reduced immune function. To further test the effect of differences in reproductive investment on immunity, we compared the responses between natural large (n≥8) and small litter size (n≤6) (Experiment II) and manipulated large (11–13) and small litter size (2–3) (Experiment III). During peak lactation, acquired immunity (PHA response, anti-KLH IgG and anti-KLH IgM) was not significantly different between voles raising large or small litters in both experiments, despite the measured difference in reproductive investment (greater litter size, litter mass, RMR and food intake in the voles raising larger litters). Total IgG was higher in voles with natural large litter size than those with natural small litter size, but decreased in the enlarged litter size group compared with control and reduced group. Our results showed that immune function is not suppressed to compensate the high energy demands during lactation in Brandt's voles and contrasting the situation in birds, is unlikely to be an important aspect mediating the trade-off between reproduction and survival.
During winter, increased thermoregulatory demands coincide with limited food availability necessitating physiological trade offs among expensive physiological processes resulting in seasonal breeding among small mammals. In the laboratory, short winter-like day lengths induce regression of the reproductive tract, but also enhance many aspects of immune function. It remains unspecified the extent to which bolstered immune responses in short days represent enhanced immune function per se compared to long days or represents energetic disinhibition mediated by the regression of the reproductive tract. Cohabitation of male Siberian hamsters with intact female conspecifics can block short-day reproductive regression. We sought to determine whether female cohabitation could also block the enhanced immune function associated with short days. Adult male Siberian hamsters were housed in long or short day lengths in one of three housing conditions: (1) single-housed, (2) housed with a same sex littermate, or (3) housed with an ovariectomized female. Delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses were assessed after 8 wk of photoperiod treatment. Housing with an ovariectomized female was not sufficient to block short-day reproductive regression, but prevented short-day enhancement of DTH responses. Housing with a male littermate did not alter reproductive or immune responses in either photoperiod. These data suggest that short day enhancement of immune function is independent of photoperiod-mediated changes in the reproductive system.
Seasonality; photoperiodism; social-housing; immune function; Siberian hamsters; delayed-type hypersensitivity; steroid hormones
An accumulation of evidence suggests that increased exposure to androgens is associated with prostate cancer risk. The unrestricted energy budget that is typical of Western diets represents a novel departure from the conditions in which men's steroid physiology evolved and is capable of supporting distinctly elevated testosterone levels. Although nutritional constraints likely underlie divergent patterns of testosterone secretion between Westernized and non-Western men, considerable variability exists in men's testosterone levels and prostate cancer rates within Westernized populations. Here, I use evolutionary life history theory as a framework to examine prostate cancer risk. Life history theory posits trade-offs between investment in early reproduction and long-term survival. One corollary of life history theory is the ‘challenge hypothesis’, which predicts that males augment testosterone levels in response to intrasexual competition occurring within reproductive contexts. Understanding men's evolved steroid physiology may contribute toward understanding susceptibility to prostate cancer. Among well-nourished populations of Westerners, men's testosterone levels already represent an outlier of cross-cultural variation. I hypothesize that Westernized men in aggressive social environments, characterized by intense male–male competition, will further augment testosterone production aggravating prostate cancer risk.
challenge hypothesis; cross-cultural variation; male reproductive physiology; prostate cancer; testosterone
Research on male animals suggests that the hormone testosterone plays a central role in mediating the trade-off between mating effort and parental effort. However, the direct links between testosterone, intrasexual aggression and parental care are remarkably mixed across species. Previous attempts to reconcile these patterns suggest that selection favors behavioral insensitivity to testosterone when paternal care is essential to reproductive success and when breeding seasons are especially short. Females also secrete testosterone, though the degree to which similar testosterone-mediated trade-offs occur in females is much less clear. Here, I ask whether testosterone mediates trade-offs between aggression and incubation in females, and whether patterns of female sensitivity to testosterone relate to female life history, as is often the case in males. I experimentally elevated testosterone in free-living, incubating female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), a songbird with a short breeding season during which female incubation and intrasexual aggression are both essential to female reproductive success. Testosterone-treated females showed significantly elevated aggression, reduced incubation temperatures, and reduced hatching success, relative to controls. Thus, prolonged testosterone elevation during incubation was detrimental to reproductive success, but females nonetheless showed behavioral sensitivity to testosterone. These findings suggest that the relative importance of both mating effort and parental effort may be central to understanding patterns of behavioral sensitivity in both sexes.
Maternal effects on progeny traits are common and these can profoundly alter progeny life history. Maternal effects can be adaptive, representing attempts to appropriately match offspring phenotype to the expected environment and are often mediated via trade-offs between progeny number and quality. Here we have investigated the effect of maternal food availability on progeny life history in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
The maternal environment affects both reproductive traits and progeny development. Comparisons of the progeny of worms from high and low maternal food environments indicates that low maternal food availability reduces progeny reproduction in good environments, increases progeny reproduction in poor environments and decreases the likelihood that progeny will develop as dauer larvae. These analyses also indicate that the effects on progeny are not a simple consequence of changes in maternal body size, but are associated with an increase in the size of eggs produced by worms at low maternal food availabilities.
These results indicate that the maternal environment affects both progeny reproduction and development in C. elegans and therefore that all progeny are not equal. The observed effects are consistent with changes to egg provisioning, which are beneficial in harsh environments, and of changes to progeny development, which are beneficial in harsh environments and detrimental in benign environments. These changes in progeny life history suggest that mothers in poor quality environments may be producing larger eggs that are better suited to poor conditions.
Food limitation has been suggested as one of the most important factors affecting life history evolution in terrestrial vertebrates. However, this inference is based mainly on evidence from birds, and reproductive trade-offs may differ among groups with different forms of parental care. To study whether the costs of enlarged litters (decreased mass of offspring) would appear when food is not limiting, we performed outdoor enclosure experiments in which we manipulated simultaneously the litter size (control versus litter plus two pups) and food availability (control versus food-supplemented) of female bank voles, Clethrionomys glareolus. The weaning success of females increased significantly in response to supplementary food. When females were provided with extra food, no differences were observed in body masses of weanlings of control and enlarged litters. Further, food-supplemented females grew to larger sizes during nursing than unsupplemented females. Our experiment suggests that energetic requirements during nursing constrain the number of offspring that can be raised successfully in a particular breeding attempt. The results also indicate that unlimited food resources may increase future reproductive potential of females because they can use more energy for somatic growth.
Catch-up growth, referring to infants with low birth weight reaching or exceeding normal body weight later in life, is negatively correlated to adult health outcome and life span. Life history theories have suggested that there exist trade-offs between early development and later health maintenance, but detailed mechanisms and the currency of the trade-off are unclear. In this paper, we present a general theoretical model for quantitatively elucidating the trade-off between growth rate and health maintenance in mammals from an energetic viewpoint. Based on the fundamental principles of energy conservation and organisms’ energy budgets, our model analyzes the allocation of metabolic energy to growth and health maintenance in different sets of prenatal and postnatal environments. Our model also implies a relationship between growth rate and the general process of aging. Life-span predictions are supported by quantitative and qualitative empirical observations and offer theoretical frameworks for future experimental designs and data analyses.
Catch-up growth; Energy trade-off; Health maintenance; Aging
Life-history theory offers an explanation for the intraspecific variation in reproductive effort; increased levels of current reproductive success, for example, may trade off against residual reproductive value. Even where such trade-offs have been demonstrated, however, much variation in effort remains unexplained and the underlying causes are usually obscure. We examined body state, i.e. energy reserves, as a factor, which could moderate reproductive effort. Specifically, overnight heating and cooling treatments were used to adjust dawn energy reserves in female swallows attending their nests without impinging on the opportunities for foraging. Changes in reproductive effort were measured as 'daytime energy expenditure' (doubly labelled water technique) and the 'number of feeding visits' during brood rearing, which both relate positively to current reproductive success. Our experimental treatments and responses were then compared using the common currency of energy. In response to positive and negative state manipulations, female swallows increased and decreased, respectively, their daytime energy expenditure (and number of feeding visits). These responses to experimental manipulation of state provided evidence of a direct link between the energy expenditure, life history and behaviour, which has hitherto proved elusive. They allow that energy supply and expenditure play a regulatory role in reproductive effort, and indicate that units of energy expenditure probably carry fitness costs and benefits, which are context dependent.
Trade-offs in sex resource allocation are commonly inferred from a negative correlation between male and female reproduction. We found that for three California oak species, aboveground annual net productivity (ANP) differences among individuals were primarily correlated with water availability and soil fertility. Reproductive biomass increased with ANP, but the relative allocation to reproduction was constant, indicating that reproduction tracked productivity, which in turn tracked site quality. Although there was a negative correlation between male and female reproduction, this was not the result of a resource investment trade-off, but rather a byproduct of the positive correlation between female reproductive biomass and ANP combined with the greater overall resource allocation to female, compared to male, function. Thus, we reject the hypothesis of a trade-off between these key life-history components within individuals of these species. For long-lived individuals, a plastic resource tracking response to environmental fluctuations may be more adaptive than directly linking life-history traits through trade-offs.
In conditions characterized by energetic constraints, such as in periods of low food availability, some trade-offs between reproduction and self-maintenance may be necessary; even year-round breeders may then be forced to exhibit some reproductive seasonality. Prior research has largely focused on female reproduction and physiology, and few studies have evaluated the impact of environmental factors on males. Here we assessed the effects of season and ambient temperatures on fecal glucocorticoid (fGC) and testosterone (fT) levels in male baboons in Amboseli, Kenya. The Amboseli basin is a highly challenging, semi-arid tropical habitat that is characterized by strongly seasonal patterns of rainfall and by high ambient temperatures. We previously reported that female baboons were impacted by these challenging environmental conditions. We ask here whether male baboons in the same environment and groups as females exhibit similar physiological effects. We found that after accounting for male age and individual variability, males exhibited higher fGC levels and lower fT levels during the dry season than during the wet season. Furthermore, fT but not fGC levels were lower in months of high average daily maximum temperatures, suggesting a direct impact of heat on testes. Our results demonstrate that male baboons, like females, experience ecological stress that alters their reproductive physiology. The impact of the environment on male reproduction deserves more attention both in its own right and because alteration in male physiology may contribute to the reduction in female fertility observed in challenging environments.
dry season; food availability; heat stress; fecal hormones; male baboons
This paper derives optimal life histories for fishes or other animals in relation to the size spectrum of the ecological community in which they are both predators and prey. Assuming log-linear size-spectra and well known scaling laws for feeding and mortality, we first construct the energetics of the individual. From these we find, using dynamic programming, the optimal allocation of energy between growth and reproduction as well as the trade-off between offspring size and numbers. Optimal strategies were found to be strongly dependent on size spectrum slope. For steep size spectra (numbers declining rapidly with size), determinate growth was optimal and allocation to somatic growth increased rapidly with increasing slope. However, restricting reproduction to a fixed mating season changed optimal allocations to give indeterminate growth approximating a von Bertalanffy trajectory. The optimal offspring size was as small as possible given other restrictions such as newborn starvation mortality. For shallow size spectra, finite optimal maturity size required a decline in fitness for large size or age. All the results are compared with observed size spectra of fish communities to show their consistency and relevance.
fisheries; predator–prey; size at maturity; offspring size
Organisms face trade-offs regarding their life-history strategies, such as decisions of single or multiple broods within a year. In passerines displaying facultative multiple breeding, the probability of laying a second clutch is influenced by several life-history factors. However, information about the mechanistic background of these trade-offs is largely lacking. Leptin is a protein hormone produced by white fat cells, and acts as a signal between peripheral energy depots and the central nervous system. In addition, leptin affects cells at all levels of the reproductive axis and plays a critical role in regulating the allocation of metabolic energy to reproduction. As such, it is possible that leptin levels influence the decision of whether or not to invest time and energy into a second clutch. Accordingly, we expect a treatment with exogenous leptin to result in an increased number of second broods.
At a later stage during the first brood, female great tits were treated either with long-term leptin-filled cholesterol pellets (the experimental birds) or with pellets containing only cholesterol (the control birds). We found that leptin-treated females were significantly more likely to have a second brood and that the earlier females were more likely to lay a second clutch than the late females.
As both timing of first brood and treatment with leptin were important in the decision of having multiple broods, the trade-offs involved in the breeding strategy most likely depend on multiple factors. Presumably leptin has evolved as a signal of energy supply status to regulate the release of reproductive hormones so that reproduction is coordinated with periods of sufficient nutrients. This study investigated the role of leptin as a mediator between energy resources and reproductive output, providing a fundamentally new insight into how trade-offs work on a functional basis.
If a trade-off exists between reproductive effort and immune function, life-history decisions may have important implications for parasite resistance. Here, we report effects of experimental manipulation of reproductive effort on subsequent specific immune function and parasite resistance in the collared flycatcher, Ficedula albicollis. Our results show that increased reproductive effort of females immunized with Newcastle disease virus (NDV) vaccine negatively affected the ability to respond with NDV-specific antibodies. We further show that increased reproductive effort increased the intensity of Haemoproteus infections and that such infections are associated with higher mortality. Our results thus provide support for the hypothesis that immune suppression caused by reproductive effort may be an important mechanism mediating the life-history cost of reproduction.
Lifetime reproductive effort (LRE) measures the total amount of metabolized energy diverted to reproduction during the lifespan. LRE captures key components of the life history and is particularly useful for describing and comparing the life histories of different organisms. Given a simple energetic production constraint, LRE is predicted to be similar in value for very different life histories. However, humans have some unique ecological characteristics that may alter LRE, such as the long post-reproductive lifespan, lengthy juvenile period and the cooperative nature of human foraging and reproduction. We calculate LRE for natural fertility human populations, compare the findings to other mammals and discuss the implications for human life-history evolution. We find that human life-history traits combine to yield the theoretically predicted value (approx. 1.4). Thus, even with the subsidized energy budget and uniqueness of the adult lifespan, human reproductive strategies converge on the same optimal value of LRE. This suggests that the fundamental demographic variables contained in LRE trade-off against one another in a predictable and highly constrained manner.
life-history theory; reproductive effort; human reproduction
The immune system is an energetically expensive self-maintenance complex that, given the risks of parasitism, cannot be carelessly compromised. Life-history theory posits that trade-offs between fitness components, such as self-maintenance and reproduction, vary between genders and age classes depending on their expected residual lifetime reproductive success, and seasonally as energetic requirements change. Using ruff (Philomachus pugnax), a bird with two genetically distinct male morphs, we demonstrate here a decrease in male immunocompetence during the breeding season, greater variance in immune response among males than females, immunosenescence in both sexes and male morphs, and a seasonal shift in the age range required to detect senescence. Using a phytohaemagglutinin delayed hypersensitivity assay, we assessed cell-mediated immunity (CMI) of males of typical breeding age during the breeding and nonbreeding seasons, and of a larger sample that included females and birds of a greater age range during the non-breeding period. CMI was higher for breeding-aged males in May than in November, but the increase was not related to age or male morph. In November, mean CMI did not differ between the sexes, but the variance was higher for males than for females, and there were no differences in mean or variance between the two male morphs. For both sexes and male morphs, CMI was lower for young birds than for birds of typical breeding ages, and it declined again for older birds. In males, senescence was detected in the non-breeding season only when very old birds were included. These results, generally consistent with expectations from life-history theory, indicate that the immune system can be involved in multifarious trade-offs within a yearly cycle and along an individual's lifetime, and that specific predictions about means and variances in immune response should be considered in future immunoecological research.
The trade-off between reproductive investment and lifespan is the single most important concept in life-history theory. A variety of sources of evidence support the existence of this trade-off, but the physiological costs of reproduction that underlie this relationship remain poorly understood. The Free Radical Theory of Ageing suggests that oxidative stress, which occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of damaging Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and protective antioxidants, may be an important mediator of this trade-off. We sought to test this theory by manipulating the reproductive investment of female mice (Mus musculus domesticus) and measuring the effects on a number of life history and oxidative stress variables. Females with a greater reproductive load showed no consistent increase in oxidative damage above females who had a smaller reproductive load. The groups differed, however, in their food consumption, reproductive scheduling and mean offspring mass. Of particular note, females with a very high reproductive load delayed blastocyst implantation of their second litter, potentially mitigating the costs of energetically costly reproductive periods. Our results highlight that females use strategies to offset particularly costly periods of reproduction and illustrate the absence of a simple relationship between oxidative stress and reproduction.
Ageing; aging; cost of reproduction; cross-foster; Free Radical Theory of ageing; life history; oxidative damage; postpartum pregnancy; senescence; trade-off
Seasonal variation in behavior and physiology, including changes in immune function, are common. This variability is elicited by changes in photoperiod and often covaries with fluctuations in both energy reserves and reproductive state. It is unclear, however, whether changes in either variable alone drive seasonal changes in immunity. We investigated the relative contributions of reproduction and energy balance to changes in immune function. To accomplish this, we uncoupled seasonal changes in reproduction from those related to energy balance via daily injections of N-methyl-D-Aspartate (NMDA) in Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus). NMDA is a glutamatergic agonist that blocks short-day induced gonadal regression while leaving short-day declines in body mass unaffected. In Experiment 1, we examined the effect of differing doses of NMDA on testosterone production as a proxy for NMDA effects on reproduction; a dose-dependent rise in testosterone was observed. In Experiment 2, animals were maintained on long or short days and received daily injections of NMDA. After eight weeks all animals underwent a humoral immune challenge. Short-day animals receiving daily injections of NMDA maintained long-day-like gonads, however contrary to our predictions, no trade-off between reproduction or energy balance and immune function was observed. Unexpectedly, NMDA treatment increased immunoglobulin levels in all groups, suggesting NMDA may provide an immunomodulatory signal, presumably through actions on peripheral glutamate receptors. These results support a previous finding that NMDA blocks reproductive regression. In addition, these findings demonstrate a general immunoenhancing effect of NMDA that appears independent of changes in reproductive or energetic state of the animal.
In female mammals, reproduction is tightly regulated by energy status and food availability. Although acute energetic challenges inhibit female reproductive behavior and gonadotropin secretion, less attention has been given to the effects of short-term energetic challenge on pregnancy and gestation. Furthermore, species differences in pregnancy physiology necessitate more detailed analyses of specific pregnancy models. Here, we studied musk shrews, which display induced ovulation and obligate delayed implantation, and whose reproductive physiology is tightly linked to metabolic status. We tested whether acute energetic challenges of vary degrees given at specific pregnancy stages (including before and after delayed implantation) have different effects on gestational outcome and offspring postnatal development. We found that 48 h of either 40% or 50% food restriction, which reduced body weight and strongly inhibited sexual behavior, had minimal effects on pregnancy success and litter dynamics when administered early in gestation (pre-implantation). However, <30% of females experiencing short-term food restriction later in gestation successfully gave birth (versus ≥70% of ad-libitum fed controls), and the pups of these food-restricted females exhibited a 30% slower postnatal growth trajectory. Interestingly, although pregnancy success and litter dynamics were unaffected by food restriction before implantation, gestation length was increased by metabolic challenges experienced at this time, indicating that energy status may regulate the timing of implantation. We conclude that 1) there are critical periods of pregnancy, particularly after implantation, when short-term, mild energetic challenges have significant impacts on fertility and offspring postnatal development, and 2) delayed implantation may have evolved, in part, as a buffering mechanism to prevent pregnancy failure during impaired energy balance in early gestation.
reproduction; pregnancy; fertility; gestation; delayed implantation; energy balance; food restriction; sexual behavior; development