Extremely short lifespan in the annual fish Nothobranchius furzeri

Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Nov 7;270 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S189-91. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2003.0048.


Evolutionary theories of senescence postulate that lifespan is determined by the age-dependent decrease in the effects of natural selection. Factors that influence survival and reproduction at early life stages have a larger impact on fitness than factors that influence later life stages. According to these views, selection for rapid sexual maturation and a steep age-dependent decrease in fitness drive the evolution of short lifespans. Here, we report on the survival trajectory of Nothobranchius furzeri (Pisces: Ciprinodontidae): a member of a group of annual species found in temporary bodies of water whose life expectancy in the wild is limited to a few months. We find that maximum survival of N. furzeri in the laboratory is less than 12 weeks. The temporal trajectory of survival shows an age-dependent increase in the mortality rate that is typical of organisms with defined lifespans. The lifespan of N. furzeri is exceptionally short for a vertebrate: owing to its small size and the possibility of propagation in captivity, N. furzeri could be used as a convenient model for ageing research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological*
  • Animals
  • Body Constitution / physiology
  • Fundulidae / physiology*
  • Longevity / physiology*