Rank-related contrasts in longevity arise from extra-group excursions not delayed senescence in a cooperative mammal

Cram, D. L., Monaghan, P. , Gillespie, R., Dantzer, B., Duncan, C., Spence-Jones, H. and Clutton-Brock, T. (2018) Rank-related contrasts in longevity arise from extra-group excursions not delayed senescence in a cooperative mammal. Current Biology, 28(18), pp. 2934-2939. (doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.021) (PMID:30174185)

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Abstract

In many cooperatively breeding animal societies, breeders outlive non-breeding subordinates, despite investing heavily in reproduction [1-3]. In eusocial insects, the extended lifespans of breeders arise from specialized slowed aging profiles [1], prompting suggestions that reproduction and dominance similarly defer aging in cooperatively breeding vertebrates, too [4-6]. Although lacking the permanent castes of eusocial insects, breeders of vertebrate societies could delay aging via phenotypic plasticity (similar rank-related changes occur in growth, neuroendocrinology, and behavior [7-10]), and such plastic deferment of aging may reveal novel targets for preventing aging-related diseases [11]. Here, we investigate whether breeding dominants exhibit extended longevity and delayed age-related physiological declines in wild cooperatively breeding meerkats. We show that dominants outlive subordinates but exhibit faster telomere attrition (a marker of cellular senescence and hallmark of aging [12]) and that in dominants (but not subordinates), rapid telomere attrition is associated with mortality. Our findings further suggest that, rather than resulting from specialized aging profiles, differences in longevity between dominants and subordinates are driven by subordinate dispersal forays, which become exponentially more frequent with age and increase subordinate mortality. These results highlight the need to critically examine the causes of rank-related longevity contrasts in other cooperatively breeding vertebrates, including social mole-rats, where they are currently attributed to specialized aging profiles in dominants [4].

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The Kalahari Meerkat Project is supported by the Universities of Cambridge, Zurich, and Pretoria. This research was supported by a European Research Council grant to T.C.-B. (#294494). P.M. was supported by European Research Council grant (#268926).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gillespie, Mr Robert and Monaghan, Professor Pat
Authors: Cram, D. L., Monaghan, P., Gillespie, R., Dantzer, B., Duncan, C., Spence-Jones, H., and Clutton-Brock, T.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Current Biology
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0960-9822
ISSN (Online):1879-0445
Published Online:30 August 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Current Biology 28(18):2934-2939
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
164901The ecological significance of telomere dynamics:environments, individuals and inheritancePatricia MonaghanEuropean Research Council (ERC)20100317/FP7-268926Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine