Effect of temperature on the rate of ageing: an experimental study of the blowfly Calliphora stygia

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 3;8(9):e73781. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073781. eCollection 2013.


All organisms age, the rate of which can be measured by demographic analysis of mortality rates. The rate of ageing is thermally sensitive in ectothermic invertebrates and we examined the effects of temperature on both demographic rates of ageing and on cellular senescence in the blowfly, Calliphora stygia. The short lifespan of these flies is advantageous for demographic measurements while their large body size permits individual-based biochemical characterisation. Blowflies maintained at temperatures from 12°C to 34°C had a five to six-fold decrease in maximum and average longevity, respectively. Mortality rates were best described by a two-phase Gompertz relation, which revealed the first-phase of ageing to be much more temperature sensitive than the second stage. Flies held at low temperatures had both a slower first-phase rate of ageing and a delayed onset of second-phase ageing, which significantly extended their longevity compared with those at high temperatures. Blowflies that were transferred from 29°C to 15°C had higher first-phase mortality rates than those of flies held at constant 15°C, but their onset of second-phase ageing was deferred beyond that of flies held constantly at this temperature. The accumulation of fluorescent AGE pigment, a measure of cellular oxidative damage, increased steadily over time in all blowflies, irrespective of the temporal pattern of mortality. Pigment accumulated steadily during periods of 'negligible senescence', as measured by minimal rate of mortality, and the rate of accumulation was significantly affected by temperature. Thus accumulation of AGE pigment is more representative of chronological age than a reflection of biological age or a cause of mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Eggs
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Longevity
  • Temperature*

Grant support

This research was funded by an Australian Research Council Grant to AJH and WAB. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.