Oxidative damage, ageing, and life-history evolution: Where now?

Colin Selman*, Jonathan D. Blount, Daniel H. Nussey, John R. Speakman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

260 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The idea that resources are limited and animals can maximise fitness by trading costly activities off against one another forms the basis of life-history theory. Although investment in reproduction or growth negatively affects survival, the mechanisms underlying such trade-offs remain obscure. One plausible mechanism is oxidative damage to proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Here, we critically evaluate the premise that ROS-induced oxidative damage shapes life history, focussing on birds and mammals, and highlight the importance of ecological studies examining free-living animals within this experimental framework. We conclude by emphasising the value of using multiple assays to determine oxidative protection and damage. We also highlight the importance of using standardised and appropriate protocols, and discuss future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-577
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
Early online date11 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to David Costantini for helpful comments on an earlier draft. C.S. acknowledges support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the form of a New Investigator Grant (BB/H012850/1). J.D.B. was supported by a Royal Society Research Fellowship. D.H.N. was supported by a BBSRC David Phillips fellowship. J.R.S. was supported by BBSRC grant (BB/G009953/1), the ‘1000 Talents Recruitment Program’ of the Chinese Government and the Key State Laboratory of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.


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