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Journal Articles Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Year : 2023

Individual life histories: neither slow nor fast, just diverse

Rémi Fay
F Guillaume Blanchet
  • Function : Author
Julien Martin
James A Mills
  • Function : Author
Francine M Mayer
  • Function : Author
Jay Rotella
  • Function : Author
Dirk H van Vuren
  • Function : Author
Caitlin P Wells
  • Function : Author
John Yarrall
  • Function : Author
Stéphanie Jenouvrier


The slow–fast continuum is a commonly used framework to describe variation in life-history strategies across species. Individual life histories have also been assumed to follow a similar pattern, especially in the pace-of-life syndrome literature. However, whether a slow–fast continuum commonly explains life-history variation among individuals within a population remains unclear. Here, we formally tested for the presence of a slow–fast continuum of life histories both within populations and across species using detailed long-term individual-based demographic data for 17 bird and mammal species with markedly different life histories. We estimated adult lifespan, age at first reproduction, annual breeding frequency, and annual fecundity, and identified the main axes of life-history variation using principal component analyses. Across species, we retrieved the slow–fast continuum as the main axis of life-history variation. However, within populations, the patterns of individual life-history variation did not align with a slow–fast continuum in any species. Thus, a continuum ranking individuals from slow to fast living is unlikely to shape individual differences in life histories within populations. Rather, individual life-history variation is likely idiosyncratic across species, potentially because of processes such as stochasticity, density dependence, and individual differences in resource acquisition that affect species differently and generate non-generalizable patterns across species.
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Dates and versions

hal-04152725 , version 1 (05-07-2023)



Joanie van de Walle, Rémi Fay, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Fanie Pelletier, Sandra Hamel, et al.. Individual life histories: neither slow nor fast, just diverse. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2023, 290 (2002), pp.20230511. ⟨10.1098/rspb.2023.0511⟩. ⟨hal-04152725⟩
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