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Causes and consequences of senescence in wild insects

Causes and consequences of senescence in wild insects

Objective

This project will study the evolutionary ecology of senescence – how and why biological performance declines with age. Understanding senescence in nature requires us to study interactions between the environment and natural and sexual selection and how they shape patterns of ageing. I will study life-history trade-offs in both lab and natural environments exploiting an existing project on a wild cricket population that has amassed 12 years of data. My study system consists of annual generations of a few hundred individually tagged, video-monitored and genotyped individuals. This system will allow me to address evolutionary questions about senescence that are very hard to study in much longer lived vertebrates. My approach of studying senescence in both lab and field environments is timely in the face of the current state of the art showing that the fitness outcomes of genetically controlled pathways with pleiotropic early and late-life effects depend on the environment in which they are studied. I will use techniques in eco-physiology (telomere measurements), animal breeding (quantitative genetics), and evolutionary ecology (life-history trade-offs and animal behaviour) to study the extent to which (i) telomeres can be used as biomarker of ageing in insects, (ii) life-history trade-offs including behaviour underpinning senescence, and (iii) the extent to which these phenotypic correlations are also expressed as genetic correlations i.e. are they heritable? These questions are key to solving the enigma of ageing, and their answers will be important for research aimed at understanding processes that drive the demographic ageing of Europe’s society. In my past research I led an eight-year experiment testing the trade-off between reproduction and ageing and telomere shortening in a large wild bird population (papers in Ecol. Lett. 2014 & 2015 & Proc.Soc.B 2014). I am excited to switch to insects to address questions that have never been tackled in their natural context.
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Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

Address

The Queen'S Drive Northcote House
Ex4 4qj Exeter

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 195 454,80

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 792215

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 September 2018

  • End date

    31 August 2020

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 195 454,80

  • EU contribution

    € 195 454,80

Coordinated by:

THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

United Kingdom