Evolutionary Genetics of Aging in Daphnia

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Evolutionary theory of aging stipulates that aging is inevitable consequence of low effectiveness of natural selection acting on traits expressed late in the life span of the organisms. Two main hypotheses exist: the neutralist mutation-accumulation theory and selectionist antagonistic pleiotropy theory. Both theories predict the increase of genetic variance with age; the antagonistic pleiotropy theory also predicts negative genetic correlation between fitness related traits in the beginning and in the end of the life span. In order to test these predictions we measured life expectancy and age specific mortality in cohorts of 26 c lones of Daphnia magna extracted from a single cyclic parthenogen population. Simultaneously, fecundity and age to maturity were measured in representatives of the same clones. Log mortality increased linearly with age, with little evidence for leveling off, although some replicate cohorts did show a significant leveling off of mortality. Genetic variance of log mortality was significantly higher in the last quarter of the life span than in earlier time intervals. There was a significant positive genetic correlation between early fecundity and early mortality, but not between early fecundity and late mortality. This indicates that, although there is a trade-off between fecundity and survival, this trade-off is not based on pleiotropy across ages and therefore the data does not support the prediction of antagonistic pleiotropy theory.