Sex, diet and lifespan


The key question addressed in this project is to determine why each sex typically has a different length of life.

Males and females possess distinct morphological, physiological and behavioural characteristics, of which differences in lifespan are among the most striking, but perhaps the least well understood. Length of life can also be extraordinarily plastic – varying significantly with reproductive status and nutrient availability. However, the extent to which lifespan is plastic in each sex also differs markedly. For example, sex differences in male vs female lifespan in fruitflies can be completely reversed by manipulations of diet and mating status via dramatic effects on females.

The main aim of the project is to test the idea that differences in male and female lifespan arise because each sex chooses and require different nutrients to maximise their lifespan and fitness. The student will test this using the latest experimental and bioinformatic tools in the fruitfly system.

The core idea is to test the effects of different experimental diets separately on male and female fitness, in the presence and absence of dietary choice. The student will profile ageing phenotypes and physiological measures of health and fitness throughout life, and identify the loci and regulatory mechanisms contributing to sex-specific lifespan.

The student will train at the cutting edge interface of ageing, life history and bioinformatics, to test fundamental concepts of ageing. The project is a collaboration with the Earlham Institute, a world-leading research centre for bioinformatics. They will gain cutting-edge research skills in bioinformatics, molecular genetics and life history study. They will train at the UEA and Earlham Institute, and will gain key insights into the development and application of transferable techniques. They will receive excellent training and career development from the thriving Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership.


Rostant WG, Mason JS, deCoriolis J-C & Chapman T. (2020) Resource-dependent evolution of female resistance responses to sexual conflict. Evolution Letters, 4, 54-64.

Duxbury EML & Chapman T. (2020) Sex-specific responses of lifespan and fitness to variation in developmental versus adult diets in D. melanogaster. Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. 75, 1431-1438.

Leftwich PT*, Nash, WJ*, Friend LA, & Chapman T. (2019) Contribution of maternal effects to dietary selection in the medfly. Evolution, 73: 278-292.