There is an accumulating body of evidence that a decline in immune function with age is common to most if not all vertebrates. For instance, age-associated thymic involution seems to occur in all species that possess a thymus, indicating that this process is evolutionary ancient and conserved. The precise mechanisms regulating immunosenescence remain to be resolved, but much of what we do know is consistent with modern evolutionary theory. In this review, we assess our current knowledge from an evolutionary perspective on the occurrence of immunosenescence, we show that life history trade-offs play a key role and we highlight the possible advantages of the age-related decline in thymic function.
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