Planktonic copepods are a key group in the marine pelagic ecosystem, linking primary production with upper trophic levels. Their abundance and population dynamics are constrained by the life history tradeoffs associated with resource availability, reproduction and predation pressure. The tradeoffs associated with the ageing process and its underlying biological mechanisms are, however, poorly known. Our study shows that ageing in copepods involves a deterioration of their vital rates and a rise in mortality associated with an increase in oxidative damage (lipid peroxidation); the activity of the cell-repair enzymatic machinery also increases with age. This increase in oxidative damage is associated with an increase in the relative content of the fatty acid 22:6(n-3), an essential component of cell membranes that increases their susceptibility to peroxidation. Moreover, we show that caloric (food) restriction in marine copepods reduces their age-specific mortality rates, and extends the lifespan of females and their reproductive period. Given the overall low production of the oceans, this can be a strategy, at least in certain copepod species, to enhance their chances to reproduce in a nutritionally dilute, temporally and spatially patchy environment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas