Life history trade-offs in co-operative breeders
The social mole-rats, of which Damaraland mole-rats present an extreme case, are physiological enigmas, as exemplified by their ability to withstand hypoxia, their resistance to cancer-like phenotypes, and their extraordinary longevity. Such characteristics have catapulted social mole-rats (largely naked mole-rats) into the limelight as model organisms in medicine. Nonetheless, little effort has examined the proximate basis of mole-rat life histories from an ecological perspective. With my PhD research, I will investigate life history covariation in Damaraland Mole-rats using a combination of field and laboratory-based studies. Specifically I hope to quantify the relative costs and benefits of reproduction or non-reproduction in terms of growth and ageing, and more widely probe the link between sociality and longevity in mammals. I am also interested in the capacity of hormones to integrate suites of traits – behaviour, physiology, life history- and thereby potentially constrain or facilitate life history evolution, for which I will use the Damaraland Mole-Rat as a case study.