Ageing in reptiles

Gerontology. 1994;40(2-4):200-20. doi: 10.1159/000213588.


Like in fishes, the reptiles appear to show three types of senescence. The African skink, Mabuya buettneri, shows rapid senescence similar to death at mating observed in Salmon and marsupial mouse. Most of the lizards and snakes undergo gradual senescence comparable to the pattern exhibited by a majority of vertebrates. On the other hand, turtles, tortoises and crocodiles continue to grow throughout life and are thus credited with slow or negligible senescence. Evidences and mechanisms of rapid or negligible senescence in reptiles are still fragmentary and unclear. Findings in a few species of lizards (Calotes versicolor) and snakes (Natrix natrix) showing gradual senescence support the concept of commonalities in ageing phenomena in vertebrates. An age-related increase in the stability of collagen and accumulation of altered enzyme molecules, a decrease in metabolism and response to stress-enhanced anti-oxidative defence mechanisms and the nature of responses to hormones, restricted diet and lower environmental temperature corroborate the concept. On the other hand neither the increase in mortality rate and accumulation of lipofuscin nor the reproductive senility have been shown conclusively in ageing reptile populations. It is likely that there are multiple mechanisms of senescence in reptiles. Further studies on selected species from among the 6,000 living species are necessary to unravel the phenomena.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Reproduction
  • Reptiles / anatomy & histology*
  • Reptiles / growth & development
  • Reptiles / physiology
  • Species Specificity


  • Antioxidants
  • Proteins
  • Glucose