Mammalian aging, metabolism, and ecology: evidence from the bats and marsupials

J Gerontol. 1991 Mar;46(2):B47-53. doi: 10.1093/geronj/46.2.b47.


This study compared trends in body size, life span, metabolic rate, and ecology of bats and marsupials with those from mammals generally, using a 580 species data base. The linear logarithmic relationship between mammalian body mass and maximum longevity, deleting bats and marsupials, is used as a standard against which to measure life spans of particular mammal groups. Bats have maximum life spans a minimum of 3 times those of nonflying eutherians--a trend resulting from neither low basal metabolic rate, the ability to enter torpor, nor large relative brain size. Marsupials live about 80% as long as nonflying eutherians despite averaging lower basal metabolic rates; similarly, there is no effect of heterothermy or relative brain size. These results directly conflict with predictions of both "rate of living" and brain-size mediated theories of aging. However, they are consistent with an evolutionary theory that posits exceptionally long life spans among mammals with reduced environmental vulnerability.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Temperature
  • Chiroptera / metabolism
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Ecology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Hibernation / physiology
  • Longevity
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Marsupialia / metabolism
  • Marsupialia / physiology*