Suzanne Estes

Date of Award

Summer 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 62 p.) : ill. (some col.)


Oxidative stress -- Pathophysiology, Active oxygen -- Physiological effect, Caenorhabditis elegans -- Research




Evolutionary life history theory predicts that tradeoffs among fitness-related phenotypes will occur as a result of resource limitations and/or physiological constraints. Such tradeoffs are defined as the cost(s) incurred on one component of fitness (e.g., reproduction) by the increased expression of another fitness-related trait (e.g., longevity). Only recently have researchers begun to investigate the mechanistic bases of life history tradeoffs. A recent proposal is that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have a central role in shaping life history traits and tradeoffs. Research on disparate animal taxa has highlighted strong correlations between oxidative stress resistance and fitness-related life history traits, for example. Here, I use the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to test several hypotheses concerning the effects of ROS on life history traits and the manifestation of life history tradeoffs. Additionally, I use heat stress and an alternate food source to explore the responses of life history traits to other forms of physiological stress. Relative fitness and other traits related to reproduction were found to be affected in mostly negative ways by increasing oxidative insult. Lifespan was surprisingly unaffected by oxidative stress, but was modified by temperature. In vivo ROS levels as measured by fluorescent microscopy reveal a tradeoff between antioxidant production and reproduction in this species.

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