The fundamental question 'why do organisms age?' remains among the most enduring challenges in evolutionary biology. One of the most complex aspects of ageing is sex-specific selection on ageing rates and, more generally, the dynamic link between ageing and sexual conflict. Although sexual conflict was recognized over 30 years ago, its role in adaptive evolution has only recently received theoretical and empirical attention. Sexual conflict is currently recognized as a key evolutionary process, and recent evidence suggests that it can drastically influence patterns of ageing by acting as both a catalyst of and a constraint to the evolution of sex-specific life histories. Considerations of sexual conflict are therefore fundamental to understand why males and females age at different rates, the costs of sex and, ultimately, the evolution of ageing. Unfortunately, ageing theory has largely neglected sexual conflict, while theory of sexual conflict has only begun to consider ageing. The integration of these topical areas of evolutionary biology is in its infancy and, as a consequence, comprehensive work investigating the relationship between sex-specific patterns of ageing and –simultaneously- interlocus sexual conflict (IRSC) and intralocus sexual conflict (IASC; the two fundamental mechanisms of sexual conflict) has been extremely rare. Using a model insect species (Tribolium castaneum), I propose a strongly experimental approach aimed to address some of the fundamental evolutionary questions concerning ageing and sexual conflict: a) Does the intensity of interlocus conflict (IRSC) influence ageing rates and, does senescence foster IRSC?, b) Does intralocus conflict (IASC) constrain the evolution of sex-specific ageing rates?, and c) How do IRSC and IASC interact to influence ageing? A fourth integrated objective is to identify gerontogenes underlying the evolution of sex-specific ageing rates and, in particular, gerontogenes that are target of IASC and IRSC.
Field of science
- /natural sciences/biological sciences/zoology/entomology
- /natural sciences/biological sciences/evolutionary biology
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