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The way organisms cope with oxidative stress, to quench potentially toxic oxygen free radicals while maintaining oxygen species functionality, is crucial in shaping life-history traits. Antioxidant capacity plays an important role in this process. Here we use multi-model inference procedures to examine the age-class-dependent non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity of the European badger (Meles meles), testing non-enzymatic plasma antioxidant capacity and expressing the results as vitamin E analogue (VEA) equivalent units. Despite immaturity (ca 16 weeks old), cubs exhibited plasma antioxidant capacity equivalent to those of prime-age adults (1-5 years old). Compared to individuals aged 6 years and over, cubs exhibited significantly higher non-enzymatic plasma antioxidant capacity. There was no association between plasma antioxidant capacity and sex or other physiological variables, such as body condition or presence of wounding. We consider the adaptive significance of this life-history strategy with respect to pandemic endoparasitoses that affect badger cub survival, as well as a possible link to the free radical theory of ageing. Our finding on the interaction between age and antioxidant defences (linked to immune function) has implications for the controversy surrounding effective badger bovine tuberculosis management strategy in the UK. © 2013 Copyright 2013 Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Firenze, Italia.

Original publication




Journal article


Ethology Ecology and Evolution

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