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Data from: Inbreeding intensifies sex- and age-dependent disease in a wild mammal

Cite this dataset

Benton, Clare H. et al. (2019). Data from: Inbreeding intensifies sex- and age-dependent disease in a wild mammal [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. The mutation accumulation theory of senescence predicts that age-related deterioration of fitness can be exaggerated when inbreeding causes homozygosity for deleterious alleles. A vital component of fitness, in natural populations, is the incidence and progression of disease. 2. Evidence is growing for natural links between inbreeding and ageing; between inbreeding and disease; between sex and ageing; and between sex and disease. However, there is scant evidence, to date, for links among age, disease, inbreeding and sex in a single natural population. 3. Using ecological and epidemiological data from a long-term longitudinal field study, we show that in wild European badgers (Meles meles) exposed naturally to bovine tuberculosis (bTB), inbreeding (measured as multi-locus homozygosity) intensifies a positive correlation between age and evidence of progressed infection (measured as an antibody response to bTB), but only among females. Male badgers suffer a steeper relationship between age and progressed infection than females, with no influence of inbred status. We found no link between inbreeding and the incidence of progressed infection during early-life in either sex. 4. Our findings highlight an age-related increase in the impact of inbreeding on a fitness-relevant trait (disease state) among females. This relationship is consistent with the predictions of the mutation accumulation theory of senescence, but other mechanisms could also play a role. For example, late-life declines in condition, arising through mechanisms other than mutation accumulation might have increased the magnitude of inbreeding depression in late-life. 5. Whichever mechanism causes the observed patterns, we have shown that inbreeding can influence age-dependent patterns of disease and, by extension, is likely to affect the magnitude and timing of the late-life declines in components of fitness that characterise senescence. Better understanding of sex-specific links between inbreeding, disease and ageing provides insights into population-level pathogen dynamics and could influence management strategies for wildlife reservoirs of zoonotic disease.

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