Mom's reward: Female Galápagos seabird has a shorter lifespan than males

February 12, 2019

The male Nazca booby, a large seabird of the Galápagos Islands, often outlives the domineering female of the species, according to new research from Wake Forest University published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology. Why? It's a story of rotating sex partners, the cost of being a parent and how the body falls apart in old age.

In the annual quest for the best breeding mate, the older female Nazca booby's choice to pair with a younger mate may contribute to lifespan differences within the species, said Emily Tompkins, the lead researcher who co-authored "Sex-specific patterns of senescence in Nazca boobies linked to mating system" with biology professor David J. Anderson.

The study is the latest in decades-long research by Anderson, who studies several seabird species. He and his students have been banding Nazca boobies born on Española Island, a roughly 37-square-mile Galápagos Island outpost, for more than 30 years.

The females, which are about 16 percent larger than the males, control mating and decide when it's time to "divorce" a current partner for one with a better chance at successful breeding. An excess of adult males in the Nazca booby population has led to this practice of "serial monogamy." When the males enter their late teens, their chance of breeding plummets, while females continue to breed nearly every year. So, the older females of the species often choose a younger mate each breeding season. And that seems to have led to a shorter lifespan for females, Tompkins said.

"Reproducing can reduce adult survival in the following year, so the higher breeding participation by females across the lifespan, and especially in old age, probably contributes to shorter lives," she said.

Nazca boobies can live into their late 20s, making them an excellent species for studying decline in old age.

"If you're interested in aging patterns in human systems, we have few opportunities to collect comparative data from other species," Anderson said. "This banded, known-age, population followed since infancy can help us understand what factors lead some individuals to age well and others to age poorly."

Only the long-term nature of the Galápagos study has allowed the Nazca booby to fulfill that comparative role. The potentially long lifespan of Nazca boobies means that Anderson has waited decades to observe breeding behavior and reproductive success in old birds.

Several other factors might contribute to the female Nazca booby's short lifespan, the researchers found: But, Tompkins explained, we're just beginning to understand the differences in aging among Nazca boobies.

"Some of this variation is explained by sex, environment, and other properties of individuals," she said. "We're so fortunate to have decades of data on hand to address this topic."
-end-


Wake Forest University

Related Lifespan Articles from Brightsurf:

Concrete structure's lifespan extended by a carbon textile
The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) has announced the development of an effective structural strengthening method using a noncombustible carbon textile grid and cement mortar, which can double the load-bearing capacities of structurally deficient concrete structures and increase their usable lifespan by threefold.

The rate we acquire genetic mutations could help predict lifespan, fertility
Differences in the rate that genetic mutations accumulate in healthy young adults could help predict remaining lifespan in both sexes and the remaining years of fertility in women, according to University of Utah Health scientists.

Rare, damaging inherited mutations work together to reduce lifespan
Scientists report that the combined effects of rare, damaging mutations present at birth have a negative impact on healthspan and longevity, according to a study published this week in eLife.

Female lifespan is longer in wild mammal animals than in humans
Longer lives are not only for female humans: Mammalian female's average lifespan is 18.6% longer than that of males.

New research challenges theory explaining the effects of diet on lifespan
New research from the University of Sheffield has discovered that switching to a rich diet after eating a restricted diet can decrease life expectancy and have negative effects on health.

MDI biological scientists identify pathways that extend lifespan by 500%
Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and Nanjing University in China, have identified synergistic cellular pathways for longevity that amplify lifespan fivefold in C. elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research.

Biology: Genetic 'clock' predicts lifespan in vertebrates
A model that uses genetic markers to accurately estimate the lifespans of different vertebrate species is presented in a study in Scientific Reports this week.

U-M researchers discover stress in early life extends lifespan
Some stress at a young age could actually lead to a longer life, new research shows.

Detox pathway extends lifespan of the worm C. elegans
Mutation in mitochondrial gene doubles the lifespan in the worm C. elegans by turning on a detox pathway, researchers of the Cluster of Excellence CECAD report in Nature Communications.

Longer neutrophil lifespan may contribute to HIV-associated intestinal inflammation
The increased survival of white blood cells called neutrophils is associated with alterations in the intestinal microbiome of HIV-infected individuals, according to a study published April 11 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by Nichole Klatt of the University of Miami, and colleagues.

Read More: Lifespan News and Lifespan Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.