Life-history connections to rates of aging in terrestrial vertebrates

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jun 1;107(22):10314-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1005862107. Epub 2010 May 17.


The actuarial senescence (i.e., the rate of increase in adult mortality with age) was related to body mass, development period, and age at sexual maturity across 124 taxonomic families of terrestrial vertebrates. Model selection based on Akaike's information criterion values adjusted for small size showed that the rate of aging decreases with increasing body mass, gestation period, age at maturity, and possession of flight. Among families of mammals, actuarial senescence was related to extrinsic mortality rate (standardized regression coefficient = 0.215), gestation period (-0.217), and age at maturity (-0.553). Although rate of aging in birds also was related to the embryo development period, birds grow several times more rapidly than mammals, and therefore, the connection between rate of early development and rate of aging is unclear. The strong vertebrate-wide relationship between rate of aging, or life span, and age at maturity can be explained by density-dependent feedback of adult survival rate on the recruitment of young individuals into the breeding population. Thus, age at maturity seems to reflect extrinsic mortality, which, in turn, influences selection on mechanisms that postpone physiological and actuarial senescence. Because rate of embryo development influences rate of aging independently of the age at maturity, in a statistical sense, the evolutionary diversification of development and aging seem to be connected in both birds and mammals; however, the linking mechanisms are not known.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amphibians
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Birds
  • Embryonic Development
  • Female
  • Longevity / genetics
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Male
  • Mammals
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Reptiles
  • Sexual Maturation / genetics
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology
  • Vertebrates / classification
  • Vertebrates / genetics
  • Vertebrates / growth & development*
  • Vertebrates / physiology*