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AbstractMale reproductive traits such as ejaculate size and quality, are expected to decline with advancing age due to senescence. It is however unclear whether this expectation is upheld across taxa. We perform a meta-analysis on 379 studies, to quantify the effects of advancing male age on ejaculate traits across 157 species of non-human animals. Contrary to predictions, we find no consistent pattern of age-dependent changes in ejaculate traits. This result partly reflects methodological limitations, such as studies sampling a low proportion of adult lifespan, or the inability of meta-analytical approaches to document non-linear ageing trajectories of ejaculate traits; which could potentially lead to an underestimation of senescence. Yet, we find taxon-specific differences in patterns of ejaculate senescence. For instance, older males produce less motile and slower sperm in ray-finned fishes, but larger ejaculates in insects, compared to younger males. Notably, lab rodents show senescence in most ejaculate traits measured. Our study challenges the notion of universal reproductive senescence, highlighting the need for controlled methodologies and a more nuanced understanding of reproductive senescence, cognisant of taxon-specific biology, experimental design, selection pressures, and life-history.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Communications


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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