Many mutations that dramatically extend life span in model organisms come with substantial fitness costs. Although these genetic manipulations provide valuable insight into molecular modulators of life span, it is currently unclear whether life-span extension is unavoidably linked to fitness costs. To examine this relationship, we evolved a genetically heterogeneous population of Caenorhabditis elegans for 47 generations, selecting for early fecundity. We asked whether an increase in early fecundity would necessitate a decrease in longevity or late fecundity (antagonistic pleiotropy). Caenorhabditis elegans experimentally evolved for increased early reproduction and decreased late reproduction but suffered no total fitness or life-span costs. Given that antagonistic pleiotropy among these traits has been previously demonstrated in some cases, we conclude that the genetic constraint is not absolute, that is, it is possible to uncouple longevity from early fecundity using genetic variation segregating within and among natural populations.
2011. Vol. 66, no 12