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Data from: Senescence impacts reproduction and maternal investment in bottlenose dolphins

Cite this dataset

Karniski, Caitlin; Krzyszczyk, Ewa; Mann, Janet (2018). Data from: Senescence impacts reproduction and maternal investment in bottlenose dolphins [Dataset]. Dryad.


Reproductive senescence is evident across many mammalian species. An emerging perspective considers components of reproductive senescence as evolutionarily distinct phenomena: fertility senescence and maternal-effect senescence. While fertility senescence is regarded as the aging of reproductive physiology, maternal-effect senescence pertains to the declining capacity to provision and rear surviving offspring due to age. Both contribute to reproductive failure in utero making it difficult to differentiate between the two prenatally in the wild. We investigated both components in a long-lived mammal with prolonged maternal care through three parameters: calf survival, interbirth interval (IBI), and lactation period. We provide clear evidence for reproductive senescence in a wild population of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) using 34+ years of longitudinal data on 229 adult females and 562 calves. Calf survival decreased with maternal age, and calves with older mothers had lower survival than predicted by birth order, suggesting maternal-effect senescence. Both lactation period and IBIs increased with maternal age, and IBIs increased regardless of calf mortality, indicating interactions between fertility and maternal-effect senescence. Of calves that survived to weaning, last-born calves weaned later than earlier-born calves, evidence of terminal investment, a mitigating strategy given reduced reproductive value caused by either components of reproductive senescence.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: NSF GRFP DGE-1444316; NSF #0847922, 0820722, 9753044, 0316800, 0918308, 0941487, 1559380