A pace and shape perspective on fertility

Annette Baudisch*, Iain Stott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Ageing is ubiquitous to all organisms, but ageing does not always mean senescence. Counter to most evolutionary theories of ageing, the patterns of mortality and reproduction may remain unchanged or improve with age, as well as deteriorate. Describing this diversity presents a challenge to eco-evolutionary demography. The pace–shape framework of mortality tackled this challenge to qualify and quantify orthogonal components of ageing patterns in mortality. Here, we extend this framework to fertility. Analogous to the logic of the mortality framework, we define a perspective, a framework and novel methods for the pace and shape of fertility. These distinguish between orthogonal components of time-scale (pace) and distribution (shape) of reproduction over adult life span. Our pace and shape framework mirrors that of mortality, through a shift of perspective from the mother giving birth, to the offspring being born. Our new measures overcome many problems associated with measuring natural fertility trajectories, have both a clear biological and mathematical interpretation, can be intuitively visualized and satisfy and extend important conditions of the pace–shape paradigm. A comprehensive framework of fertility pace–shape facilitates ecological and evolutionary research addressing interactions and trade-offs between components of birth and death patterns, across the whole tree of life. The burgeoning emergence of large comparative demographic data sources across wide environmental, geographical, temporal and phylogenetic ranges, combined with pace–shape measures, opens the door to comparative analyses of ageing which were never possible before.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1941-1951
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • ageing
  • demography
  • fertility
  • life history
  • life tables
  • pace
  • senescence
  • shape

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