Effects of fluctuating temperature and food availability on reproduction and lifespan

Tonia S. Schwartz, Phillip Pearson, John Dawson, David B. Allison, Julia M. Gohlke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Experimental studies on energetics and aging often remove two major factors that in part regulate the energy budget in a normal healthy individual: reproduction and fluctuating environmental conditions that challenge homeostasis. Here we use the cyclical parthenogenetic Daphnia pulex to evaluate the role of a fluctuating thermal environment on both reproduction and lifespan across six food concentrations. We test the hypotheses that (1) caloric restriction extends lifespan; (2) maximal reproduction will come with a cost of shortened lifespan; and (3) at a given food concentration, relative to a metabolically equivalent constant temperature environment a diel fluctuating thermal environment will alter the allocation of energy to reproduction and lifespan to maintain homeostasis. We did not identify a level of food concentration that extended lifespan in response to caloric restriction, and we found no cost of reproduction in terms of lifespan. Rather, the individuals at the highest food levels generally had the highest reproductive output and the longest lifespans, the individuals at the intermediate food level decreased reproduction and maintained lifespan, and the individuals at the three lower food concentrations had a decrease in reproduction and lifespan as would be predicted with increasing levels of starvation. Fluctuating temperature had no effect on lifespan at any food concentration, but delayed time to reproductive maturity and decreased early reproductive output at all food concentrations. This suggests that a fluctuating temperature regimen activates molecular pathways that alter energy allocation. The costs of fluctuating temperature on reproduction were not consistent across the lifespan. Statistical interactions for age of peak reproduction and lifetime fecundity suggest that senescence of the reproductive system may vary between temperature regimens at the different food concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - Dec 15 2016


  • Adaptive plasticity
  • Caloric restriction
  • Dietary restriction
  • Fecundity
  • Intergenerational effects
  • Life span
  • Thermal fluctuations


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