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Elephants born in the high stress season have faster reproductive ageing [Scientific Reports]

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

Senescent declines in reproduction and survival are found across the tree of life, but little is known of the factors causing individual variation in reproductive ageing rates. One contributor may be variation in early developmental conditions, but only a few studies quantify the effects of early environment on reproductive ageing and none concern comparably long-lived species to humans. We determine the effects of ‘stressful’ birth conditions on lifetime reproduction in a large semi-captive population of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). We categorise birth month into stressful vs. not-stressful periods based on longitudinal measures of glucocorticoid metabolites in reproductive-aged females, which peak during heavy workload and the start of the monsoon in June-August. Females born in these months exhibit faster reproductive senescence in adulthood and have significantly reduced lifetime reproductive success than their counterparts born at other times of year. Improving developmental conditions could therefore delay reproductive ageing in species as long-lived as humans.

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