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The canalization hypothesis postulates that the rate at which trait variation generates variation in the average individual fitness in a population determines how buffered traits are against environmental and genetic factors. The ranking of a species on the slow-fast continuum - the covariation among life-history traits describing species-specific life cycles along a gradient going from a long life, slow maturity, and low annual reproductive output, to a short life, fast maturity, and high annual reproductive output - strongly correlates with the relative fitness impact of a given amount of variation in adult survival. Under the canalization hypothesis, long-lived species are thus expected to display less individual heterogeneity in survival at the onset of adulthood, when reproductive values peak, than short-lived species. We tested this life-history prediction by analysing long-term time series of individual-based data in nine species of birds and mammals using capture-recapture models. We found that individual heterogeneity in survival was higher in species with short-generation time (< 3 years) than in species with long generation time (> 4 years). Our findings provide the first piece of empirical evidence for the canalization hypothesis at the individual level from the wild.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2909 - 2914


Capture-recapture, comparative analyses, individual differences, life-history evolution, mixture models, random-effect models, vertebrates, Animals, Artiodactyla, Birds, Longevity, Population Dynamics, Species Specificity