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Life history evolution
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Here we have introduced the basics of life history theory. Life history theory attempts to understand how natural selection designs organisms to achieve reproductive success, given knowledge of how selective factors in the environment (i.e., extrinsic mortality) and factors intrinsic to the organism (i.e., trade-offs, constraints) affect survival and reproduction. By using a variety of theoretical and empirical methods, and in particular by applying optimality thinking, life history theorists have derived major predictions about the evolution of the major life history traits, including age and size at maturity, the number and size of offspring, age- or size-specific reproductive effort, reproductive lifespan, and aging. Based on these predictions, and by testing them in field and laboratory experiments, for example in flies, fish, or birds, life history biologists have provided us with some compelling answers to fundamental questions such as: How fast should an organism develop? At what age and size should it mature? How many offspring should it have and how large should they be? Should it reproduce once or more than once? And how long should it live? Through addressing these problems life history theory has made a major impact on our understanding of adaptation by natural selection, the most fundamental issue in all of evolutionary biology.
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