Am Nat 2004 Jul 7;164(1):60-9. Epub 2004 Jun 7.
Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4328, USA.
Accurate measures of age-dependent mortality are critical to life-history analysis and measures of fitness, yet these measures are difficult to obtain in natural populations. Age-dependent mortality patterns can be obscured not only by seasonal variation in environmental conditions and reproduction but also by changes in the heterogeneity among individuals in the population over time due to selection. This study of Plantago lanceolata uses longitudinal data from a field study with a large number of individuals to develop a model to estimate the shape of the baseline hazard function that represents the age-dependent risk of mortality. The model developed here uses both constant (genetics, spatial location) and time-varying (temperature, rainfall, reproduction, size) covariates not only to estimate the underlying mortality pattern but also to demonstrate that the risk of mortality associated with fitness components can change with time/age. Moreover, this analysis suggests that increasing size after reproductive maturity may allow this plant species to escape from demographic senescence.