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Research GELIFES

GELIFES Seminars - Alex Alvergne

When:Th 02-02-2023 15:30 - 16:30
Where:5172.0571 & online

Link to seminar

Alex Alvergne (CNRS, University of Montpellier)

The cost of reproductive effort for female ageing in mandrills and humans

Ageing, the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage over time, is a major driver of chronic diseases, the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. However, the determinants of variation in how fast individuals age are poorly understood, especially in the field of women’s health, traditionally focusing on reproductive health. Here, I aim to test the hypothesis that variation in the speed of ageing is due to differential investment in reproductive effort over the life-course. I will present analyses of longitudinal data from two different long-lived species: female Mandrills and women living in the UK (the UK Biobank). In each case, samples are taken from populations living in environments where the availability of energetic resources is non-seasonal and relatively abundant. In Mandrills, immuno-senescence, measured by age-adjusted co-infection with gastrointestinal parasites, is neither associated with time spent in pregnancy and lactation, nor with rank. By contrast, in a western human population, physiological markers of immuno-senescence (e.g., level of C-Reactive Protein, length of telomeres) increase with the number of offspring. Yet, if the results suggest a trade-off between reproduction and biological ageing in women, the impact of reproduction on mortality is complex. It follows a U shape and is mediated by both socio-economic and relational resources. I will discuss those results within the context of studies on the evolution of senescence.

Alex is a CNRS research fellow at the Institute for Evolutionary Sciences in Montpellier University, France. Her research focuses on understanding the relationships between reproduction and health in contemporary human populations. Most recently, she has been working on women’s health from an evolutionary perspective, focusing on contraceptive dynamics and menstrual health. Before joining CNRS, she was an Associate Professor in Biocultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, She is the President of the French Network for Evolutionary Human Sciences and serves as an associate editor for the journal Evolutionary Human Sciences.