Parental breeding age effects on descendants' longevity interact over 2 generations in matrilines and patrilines

Image credit: Zac Wylde


Individuals within populations vary enormously in mortality risk and longevity, but the causes of this variation remain poorly understood. A potentially important and phylogenetically widespread source of such variation is maternal age at breeding, which typically has negative effects on offspring longevity. Here, we show that paternal age can affect offspring longevity as strongly as maternal age does and that breeding age effects can interact over 2 generations in both matrilines and patrilines. We manipulated maternal and paternal ages at breeding over 2 generations in the neriid fly Telostylinus angusticollis. To determine whether breeding age effects can be modulated by the environment, we also manipulated larval diet and male competitive environment in the first generation. We found separate and interactive effects of parental and grand-parental ages at breeding on descendants’ mortality rate and life span in both matrilines and patrilines. These breeding age effects were not modulated by grand-parental larval diet quality or competitive environment. Our findings suggest that variation in maternal and paternal ages at breeding could contribute substantially to intrapopulation variation in mortality and longevity.

PLOS Biology
Zac Wylde
Post doctoral fellow

My research interests include animal behaviour, sexual selection, non-genetic inheritance, ageing, chemical signalling, condition-dependence, sperm competition, allometry, and the evolution of insect genitalia.