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Comparative demographic analyses aim to identify axes of variation in vital rates and the factors that determine the position of species along these axes. These analyses can be performed using different primary data sets, with marked heterogeneity in data quality and structure. Whether the outcome of demographic comparative analyses depends on the database used because theoretical predictions of evolutionary ecology are not that robust and depend on the set of species analysed or because data limitation prevents the identification of the expected patterns has never been investigated. This chapter fills this knowledge gap by performing a comparative demographic analysis across mammalian species from two distinct databases (Comadre and Malddaba) that were built for different purposes. The chapter first estimates some demographic metrics for each database, analyses their allometric relationships, and compares the estimates with theoretical expectations by performing phylogenetic regressions. Using Malddaba led to stronger allometric relationships closer to the expectation than Comadre. Moreover, the contribution of dimensionless demographic metrics to axes of variation in the shape of demographic trajectories was different between databases. The findings in the chapter demonstrate the key role of age dependence in vital rates for shaping demographic tactics across mammalian species and highlight the need for carefully choosing the database and the metrics to use depending on the question asked. Instead of opposing databases, the authors’ analysis nicely illustrates that different databases could be used to address different questions about life history variation.

Original publication





Book title

Demographic Methods across the Tree of Life

Publication Date



299 - 312