Evol Ecol Res 3: 393-412 (2001)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Evolution of senescence in iteroparous perennial plants

Jonathan Silvertown,1 Miguel Franco2‡ and Ruben Perez-Ishiwara2

1Department of Biological Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK and 2 Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 70-275, 04510 Coyoacán, D.F., México

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: j.silvertown@open.ac.uk


We applied four tests to detect evidence of the evolution of senescence in life tables and fecundity schedules for 65 species of iteroparous perennial plants. Test 1 determined the pattern of variation in age-specific mortality with age (µx). Fifty-five percent of species showed an increase in, or maximum value of, µx at the end of life. In test 2, we tried to separate mortality into initial or baseline mortality and senescent mortality by fitting the survival data of these 65 species to Weibull functions. Unlike published results with animals, the rate of senescence was independent of initial mortality rate. However, a positive relationship was found between rate of senescence and reproductive lifespan, suggesting increasing risk of death with successive reproductive events. It has been suggested that a decline in reproductive value with age is a better diagnostic of senescence, but (in test 3) this occurred in only 9% of species (6/65). Our fourth test detected a positive correlation between age at first reproduction (α) and mean reproductive lifespan (Lα), as predicted by the theory that senescence is due to a trade-off between adult survival and reproduction. Comparing species within the two largest families present in the data set, we found a correlation between α and Lα among the Liliaceae, which was largely represented by ramet life tables, but not among the Poaceae, which was largely represented by genet life tables. Clonal growth, which is common in plants, is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to prevent the evolution of senescence. We predict that clones that fragment are more likely to escape the evolution of senescence at the genet level than clones that remain physiologically integrated.

Keywords: age at first reproduction, mortality rate, perennial plants, reproductive lifespan, reproductive value, senescence, Weibull function.

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        © 2001 Jonathan Silvertown. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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