Senescence, increased mortality that occurs among animals of advanced age, impacts behavior and ecology in many avian species. We investigated actuarial, reproductive, and behavioral senescence using capture, marking, and resighting data from a 26-year study of common loons (Gavia immer). Territorial residents of both sexes exhibited high annual survival (0.94) until their mid 20s, at which point survival fell to 0.76 and 0.77 in males and females, respectively. Sexual symmetry in actuarial senescence is somewhat surprising in this species, because males make a substantially greater investment in territory defense and chick-rearing and because males engage in lethal contests for territory ownership. Survival of displaced breeders (0.80) was lower than that of territorial residents in both young and old individuals. Old males and females also experienced slightly higher annual probability of eviction (0.16 for males; 0.17 for females) than prime-aged breeders (0.13 for both sexes), indicating senescence in territory defense. Prime-aged males reclaimed territories at a high rate (0.49), in contrast to females of the same age (0.33). However, old males resettled with success (0.35) similar to old females (0.31), suggesting that males decline in competitive ability as they age. Nonetheless males, but not females, showed an apparent increase in breeding success over the entire lifetime, a possible indication that very old males make a terminal investment in reproductive output at the cost of survival.
Piper, W. H., Brunk, K. M., Flory, J. A., & Meyer, M. W. (2017). The Long Shadow of Senescence: Age Impacts Survival and Territory Defense in Loons. Journal of Avian Biology, n/a-n/a. https://doi.org/10.1111/jav.01393
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