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Reduced fitness in progeny from old parents in a natural population

, : Reduced fitness in progeny from old parents in a natural population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112(13): 4021-4025

A nongenetic, transgenerational effect of parental age on offspring fitness has been described in many taxa in the laboratory. Such a transgenerational fitness effect will have important influences on population dynamics, population age structure, and the evolution of aging and lifespan. However, effects of parental age on offspring lifetime fitness have never been demonstrated in a natural population. We show that parental age has sex-specific negative effects on lifetime fitness, using data from a pedigreed insular population of wild house sparrows. Birds whose parents were older produced fewer recruits annually than birds with younger parents, and the reduced number of recruits translated into a lifetime fitness difference. Using a long-term cross-fostering experiment, we demonstrate that this parental age effect is unlikely to be the result of changes in the environment but that it potentially is epigenetically inherited. Our study reveals the hidden consequences of late-life reproduction that persist into the next generation.


PMID: 25775600

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1422715112

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