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Life history, death and taxes
  • Joseph Burger
Joseph Burger
University of North Carolina

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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The life histories of organisms and the trophic dynamics of ecosystems are shaped by taxes paid in the form of dead offspring. No organism is exempt from the tax because mortality is ubiquitous in the struggle of life. New theory and data highlight how the tax: i) reflects the proportion of the biomass produced over a life cycle that is lost to mortality and consumed in the ecosystem, ii) is predicted by the number and relative size of offspring, iii) varies widely across species from <50% to >99.9%, depending on fecundity and parental care, and iv) supplies energy and nutrition to other organisms in the ecosystem. Taxes levied on individuals and populations support the maintenance, infrastructure and functioning of ecosystems and human economies alike.