Disentangling pre- and postnatal maternal age effects on offspring performance in an insect with elaborate maternal care

Edward Ivimey-Cook (Lead Author), Jacob Moorad

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Maternal effect senescence has attracted much recent scientific interest. However, the age-related effects of pre- and postnatal maternal age are often conflated, as these naturally originate from the same individual. Additionally, many maternal effect senescence studies fail to account for potential biases associated with selective disappearance. Here we use a cross-fostered laboratory population of a burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, to examine both the effects of female pre- and postnatal maternal age on offspring life-history traits and the postcare outcomes of mothers while accounting for selective disappearance of postnatal caregivers. Neither pre- nor postnatal maternal age affected offspring longevity or larval weight at hatching, and postnatal age had no effect on postcare maternal outcomes except to confirm the presence of actuarial senescence. There was weak evidence for concave relationships between two larval traits (dispersal weight and survival) and the age of egg producers. Selective disappearance of caregivers had no clear effect on any of the measured offspring traits. Contrary to predictions from evolutionary theory, maternal effect senescence and reproductive effort increases do not always manifest, and current theory may be insufficient to account for the true diversity of aging patterns relating to maternal care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-576
Number of pages13
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number5
Early online date7 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • aging
  • cross-fostering
  • maternal effects
  • Nicrophorus vespilloides
  • selective disappearance
  • senescence

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