Evol Ecol Res 5: 999-1009 (2003)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Why organisms show late-life mortality plateaus: a null model for comparing patterns of mortality

Charles W. Fox* and Jordi Moya-Laraño

Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, S-225 Agricultural Science Center North, Lexington, KY 40546-0091, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: cfox@uky.edu


We show that deceleration in hazard functions (mortality curves) and the resulting mortality plateaus are an intrinsic property of time-to-event traits that are affected by many underlying genetic and environmental factors. We argue that just demonstrating that a mortality curve decelerates with age and reaches a plateau provides little information about the underlying biology associated with lifespan and mortality. To test hypotheses about the rate of deceleration of mortality curves and the level of mortality plateaus, observed curves must be compared with mortality curves expected under a null model – that is, the deceleration of a mortality curve and the mortality plateau generated from a normally distributed trait of the same mean and variance. Comparisons between the observed data and the null models can be achieved with simple statistical tests. The results of these comparisons can be very informative regarding which questions about the shapes of mortality curves will be most meaningful.

Keywords: Gompertz mortality curve, hazard function, lifespan, longevity, mortality rate.

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        © 2003 Charles W. Fox. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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