Oxidative stress (OS) is hypothesized to be a key physiological mechanism mediating life-history trade-offs, but evidence from wild populations experiencing natural environmental variation is limited. We tested the hypotheses that increased early life growth rate increases OS, and that increased OS reduces first-winter survival, in wild Soay sheep (Ovis aries) lambs. We measured growth rate and first-winter survival for four consecutive cohorts, and measured two markers of oxidative damage (malondialdehyde (MDA), protein carbonyls (PC)) and two markers of antioxidant (AOX) protection (total AOX capacity (TAC), superoxide dismutase (SOD)) from blood samples. Faster lamb growth was weakly associated with increased MDA, but not associated with variation in the other three markers. Lambs with higher SOD activity were more likely to survive their first winter, as were male but not female lambs with lower PC concentrations. Survival did not vary with MDA or total TAC. Key predictions relating OS to growth and survival were therefore supported in some OS markers, but not others. This suggests that different markers capture different aspects of the complex relationships between individual oxidative state, physiology and fitness, and that overarching hypotheses relating OS to life-history variation cannot be supported or refuted by studying individual markers.
RSPB-2016-1407 Data: Data file used in analyses presented in this paper
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- Early-life fitness
- oxidative damage
- Soay sheep