Diphenyl diselenide supplementation in infected mice by Toxoplasma gondii: Protective effect on behavior, neuromodulation and oxidative stress caused by disease.
Optimal investment into life-history traits depends on the environmental conditions that organisms are likely to experience during their life. Evolutionary theory tells us that optimal investment in reproduction versus maintenance is likely to shape the pattern of age-associated decline in performance, also known as aging. The currency that is traded against different vital functions is, however, still debated. Here, we took advantage of a phenotypic manipulation of individual quality in early life to explore (1) long-term consequences on life-history trajectories, and (2) the possible physiological mechanism underlying the life-history adjustments. We manipulated phenotypic quality of a cohort of captive zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) by assigning breeding pairs to either an enlarged or a reduced brood. Nestlings raised in enlarged broods were in poorer condition than nestlings raised in reduced broods. Interestingly, the effect of environmental conditions experienced during early life extended to the age at first reproduction. Birds from enlarged broods delayed reproduction. Birds that delayed reproduction produced less offspring but lived longer, although neither fecundity nor longevity were directly affected by the experimental brood size. Using the framework of the life-table response experiment modeling, we also explored the effect of early environmental condition on population growth rate and aging. Birds raised in reduced broods tended to have a higher population growth rate, and a steeper decrease of reproductive value with age than birds reared in enlarged broods. Metabolic resources necessary to fight off the damaging effect of reactive oxygen species (ROS) could be the mechanism underlying the observed results, as (1) birds that engaged in a higher number of breeding events had a weaker red blood cell resistance to oxidative stress, (2) red blood cell resistance to oxidative stress predicted short-term mortality (but not longevity), and (3) was related with a parabolic function to age. Overall, these results highlight that early condition can have long-term effects on life-history trajectories by affecting key life-history traits such as age at first reproduction, and suggest that the trade-off between reproduction and self-maintenance might be mediated by the cumulative deleterious effect of ROS.