Accelerated reproduction is not an adaptive response to early-life adversity in wild baboons.
Weibel, CJ; Tung, J; Alberts, SC; Archie, EA
In humans and other long-lived species, harsh conditions in early life often lead to profound differences in adult life expectancy. In response, natural selection is expected to accelerate the timing and pace of reproduction in individuals who experience some forms of early-life adversity. However, the adaptive benefits of reproductive acceleration following early adversity remain untested. Here, we test a recent version of this theory, the internal predictive adaptive response (iPAR) model, by assessing whether accelerating reproduction following early-life adversity leads to higher lifetime reproductive success. We do so by leveraging 48 y of continuous, individual-based data from wild female baboons in the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, including prospective, longitudinal data on multiple sources of nutritional and psychosocial adversity in early life; reproductive pace; and lifetime reproductive success. We find that while early-life adversity led to dramatically shorter lifespans, individuals who experienced early adversity did not accelerate their reproduction compared with those who did not experience early adversity. Further, while accelerated reproduction predicted increased lifetime reproductive success overall, these benefits were not specific to females who experienced early-life adversity. Instead, females only benefited from reproductive acceleration if they also led long lives. Our results call into question the theory that accelerated reproduction is an adaptive response to both nutritional and psychosocial sources of early-life adversity in baboons and other long-lived species.