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Levitis D.A.,Max Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging | Levitis D.A.,University of Southern Denmark | Martinez D.E.,Pomona College
Frontiers in Genetics | Year: 2013

Gerontology focuses on deterioration with increasing age, but in most populations most variables, including survival probability, improve at early ages (ontogenescence) before deteriorating at advanced ages (senescence). The extent to which gerontology needs to consider this U-shaped pattern of risk over age depends upon the mechanistic, demographic and evolutionary links and interactions between ontogenescence and senescence. In reading the literature on both senescence and ontogenescence, and in interacting with other biogerontologists, we have encountered a set of what we view as inaccurate or oversimplified claims about ontogenescence, its relationship to senescence and its importance to gerontology. Here, after briefly introducing ontogenescence, we address four of these claims. We demonstrate the counterfactual nature of Claim 1. Ontogenescence is an environmental effect largely absent in protected environments. We then briefly review the literature which leads to Claim 2. Senescence and ontogenescence are parts of the same phenomenon, and describe why we reject this view. We then explain why the rejection of Claim 2 does not necessarily support Claim 3, the idea that senescence and ontogenescence are easily separable. Finally, we examine Claim 4. Gerontologists don't need to think about ontogenescence, and give some examples of why we consider this misguided. © 2013 Levitis and Martínez. Source

Koons D.N.,Utah State University | Koons D.N.,CNRS Center of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology | Colchero F.,Max Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging | Colchero F.,University of Southern Denmark | And 2 more authors.
Ecological Applications | Year: 2015

Understanding the relative effects of climate, harvest, and density dependence on population dynamics is critical for guiding sound population management, especially for ungulates in arid and semiarid environments experiencing climate change. To address these issues for bison in southern Utah, USA, we applied a Bayesian state-space model to a 72-yr time series of abundance counts. While accounting for known harvest (as well as live removal) from the population, we found that the bison population in southern Utah exhibited a strong potential to grow from low density (β0 = 0.26; Bayesian credible interval based on 95% of the highest posterior density [BCI] = 0.19-0.33), and weak but statistically significant density dependence (β1 = -0.02, BCI = -0.04 to -0.004). Early spring temperatures also had strong positive effects on population growth (βfat1 = 0.09, BCI = 0.04-0.14), much more so than precipitation and other temperature-related variables (model weight > three times more than that for other climate variables). Although we hypothesized that harvest is the primary driving force of bison population dynamics in southern Utah, our elasticity analysis indicated that changes in early spring temperature could have a greater relative effect on equilibrium abundance than either harvest or the strength of density dependence. Our findings highlight the utility of incorporating elasticity analyses into state-space population models, and the need to include climatic processes in wildlife management policies and planning. © 2015 by the Ecological Society of America. Source

Canudas-Romo V.,University of Southern Denmark | Canudas-Romo V.,Max Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging | Zimmerman L.,Family and Reproductive Health | Ahmed S.,Family and Reproductive Health | Tsui A.,Family and Reproductive Health
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Objective: We assessed the change over time in the contribution of maternal mortality to a life expectancy calculated between ages 15 and 49, or Reproductive-Aged Life Expectancy (RALE). Our goal was to estimate the increase in RALE in developed countries over the twentieth century and the hypothetical gains in African countries today by eliminating maternal mortality. Methods: Analogous to life expectancy, RALE is calculated from a life table of ages 15 to 49. Specifically, RALE is the average number of years that women at age 15 would be expected to live between 15 and 49 with current mortality rates. Associated single decrement life tables of causes of death other than maternal mortality are explored to assess the possible gains in RALE by reducing or eliminating maternal mortality. We used population-based data from the Human Mortality Database and the Demographic and Health Surveys. Findings: In developed countries, five years in RALE were gained over the twentieth century, of which approximately 10%, or half a year, was attributable to reductions in maternal mortality. In sub-Saharan African countries, the possible achievable gains fluctuate between 0.24 and 1.47 years, or 6% and 44% of potential gains in RALE. Conclusions: Maternal mortality is a rare event, yet it is still a very important component of RALE. Averting the burden of maternal deaths could return a significant increase in the most productive ages of human life. © 2014 Canudas-Romo et al. Source

Engberg H.,University of Southern Denmark | Jeune B.,University of Southern Denmark | Andersen-Ranberg K.,University of Southern Denmark | Martinussen T.,Copenhagen University | And 4 more authors.
Aging Clinical and Experimental Research | Year: 2013

Background and aims: Studies examining predictors of survival among the oldest-old have primarily focused on objective measures, such as physical function and health status. Only a few studies have examined the effect of personality traits on survival, such as optimism. The aim of this study was to examine whether an optimistic outlook predicts survival among the oldest-old. Methods: The Danish 1905 Cohort Survey is a nationwide, longitudinal survey comprising all individuals born in Denmark in 1905. At baseline in 1998, a total of 2,262 persons aged 92 or 93 agreed to participate in the intake survey. The baseline in-person interview consisted of a comprehensive questionnaire including physical functioning and health, and a question about whether the respondent had an optimistic, neutral or pessimistic outlook on his or her own future. Results: During the follow-up period of 12 years (1998-2010) there were 2,239 deaths (99 %) in the 1905 Cohort Survey. Univariable analyses revealed that optimistic women and men were at lower risk of death compared to their neutral counterparts [HR 0.82, 95 % CI (0.73-0.93) and 0.81, 95 % CI (0.66-0.99), respectively]. When confounding factors such as baseline physical and cognitive functioning and disease were taken into account the association between optimism and survival weakened in both sexes, but the general pattern persisted. Optimistic women were still at lower risk of death compared to neutral women [HR 0.85, 95 % CI (0.74-0.97)]. The risk of death was also decreased for optimistic men compared to their neutral counterparts, but the effect was non-significant [HR 0.91, 95 % CI (0.73-1.13)]. Conclusion: An optimistic outlook appears to be a significant predictor of survival among the oldest-old women. It may also be a significant predictor for men but the sample size is small. © 2013 Springer International Publishing Switzerland. Source

Baudisch A.,Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research | Salguero-Gomez R.,Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research | Salguero-Gomez R.,University of Queensland | Jones O.R.,Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research | And 8 more authors.
Journal of Ecology | Year: 2013

Demographic senescence, the decay in fertility and increase in the risk of mortality with age, is one of the most striking phenomena in ecology and evolution. Comparative studies of senescence patterns of plants are scarce, and consequently, little is known about senescence and its determinants in the plant kingdom. Senescence patterns of mortality can be classified by distinguishing between two metrics: pace and shape. The pace of mortality captures the speed at which life proceeds and can be measured by life expectancy, while the shape of mortality captures whether mortality increases ('senescence'), decreases ('negative senescence') or remains constant over age ('negligible senescence'). We extract mortality trajectories from ComPADRe III, a data base that contains demographic information for several hundred plant species. We apply age-from-stage matrix decomposition methods to obtain age-specific trajectories from 290 angiosperm species of various growth forms distributed globally. From these trajectories, we survey pace and shape values and investigate how growth form and ecoregion influence these two aspects of mortality using a Bayesian regression analysis that accounts for phylogenetic relationships using a resolved supertree. In contrast to the animal kingdom, most angiosperms (93%) show no senescence. Senescence is observed among phanerophytes (i.e. trees), but not among any other growth form (e.g. epiphytes, chamaephytes or cryptopyhtes). Yet, most phanerophytes (81%) do not senesce. We find that growth form relates to differences in pace, that is, life span, as woody plants are typically longer lived than nonwoody plants, while differences in shape, that is, whether or not angiosperms senesce, are related to ancestral history. Synthesis: The age trajectory of mortality captures a fundamental life-history pattern for a species that is crucial to ecological understanding. We contribute to ecological knowledge by surveying these patterns across angiosperms. The novelty and strength of our study lies in the comprehensiveness of the data set, the use of a novel Bayesian analysis that accounts for phylogenetic history and in the distinction between metrics of pace and shape as two separate aspects of mortality. We believe that our approach could prove useful in future comparative studies of mortality patterns. © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Ecology © 2013 British Ecological Society. Source

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