Plasticity of ageing in burying beetles

Supervisors: Jacob Moorad, Per Smiseth

Project Description:

The vast majority of observational and empirical research into the causes and consequences of ageing focus upon laboratory animal populations. Whilst there are obvious advantages to this practice, there is a growing appreciation that senescence can be ecologically-dependant. Natural populations are often subject to more hostile environments, and wild individuals are exposed to predation, starvation, parasitism, competition, and abiotic stresses from which their laboratory counterparts are protected. Very little is known about how large-scale shifts in environment from the laboratory to nature affects how ageing is manifested on life history traits, yet this information is critical to understanding the evolution of ageing. One reason for the lack of relevant insights is that there are few animal systems amenable to studying ageing in both contexts. A species of burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, is one such species. This project will use a local population of this beetle to further improve our understanding of how key life history traits, such as age-specific survival, fertility, and competitive ability, senescence in the lab whilst leveraging recently developed mark-recapture methods to measure ageing in the wild. The student will be trained in evolutionary theory, demography, quantitative genetics, and statistics.

Suggested reading:
Flatt, T., and L. Partridge. 2018. Horizons in the evolution of aging. Bmc Biology 16.
Ivimey-Cook, E.R. and J.A. Moorad. 2018. Disentangling pre- and post-natal maternal age effects on offspring performance in an insect with elaborate maternal care. American Naturalist 192(5).
Tidiere, M., J. M. Gaillard, V. Berger, D. W. H. Muller, L. B. Lackey, O. Gimenez, M. Clauss, and J. F. Lemaitre. 2016. Comparative analyses of longevity and senescence reveal variable survival benefits of living in zoos across mammals. Scientific Reports 6.

If you wish to apply for this project, please go to this link.