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Researchers: Animals age at the same rate despite big variations in lifespan and size


Somewhat like a law of nature?:

The first study to compare the accumulation of mutations across many animal species has shed new light on decades-old questions about the role of these genetic changes in ageing and cancer. Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute found that despite huge variation in lifespan and size, different animal species end their natural life with similar numbers of genetic changes.

The study, published today (13 April 2022) in Nature, analysed genomes from 16 species of mammal, from mice to giraffes. The authors confirmed that the longer the lifespan of a species, the slower the rate at which mutations occur, lending support to the long-standing theory that somatic mutations play a role in ageing…

Dr Alex Cagan, a first author of the study from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “To find a similar pattern of genetic changes in animals as different from one another as a mouse and a tiger was surprising. But the most exciting aspect of the study has to be finding that lifespan is inversely proportional to the somatic mutation rate. This suggests that somatic mutations may play a role in ageing, although alternative explanations may be possible. Over the next few years, it will be fascinating to extend these studies into even more diverse species, such as insects or plants.”

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, “Mutations across animal kingdom shed new light on aging” at ScienceDaily (April 13, 2022)


The paper is open access.

You may also wish to read: Surprise, Surprise, The aging process is irreversible

This raises a question about the exceptions. Leaving aside the 'budders and splitters' like bacteria and jellyfish, which aren't really individuals, there are several larger animals (some fish, some lobsters, possibly turtles) that simply don't have a deadline. They can die of disease or they can be eaten, but otherwise they just keep going forever. Why are these eternals so oddly distributed and so rare? It would seem more likely for an entire phylum to be eternal if anything was going to be eternal. If they arise from a missing gene, shouldn't they take over the world from the deadlined animals? polistra

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