How Can Evolution Produce Ageless Animals?

Many extremely long-lived animal species exist, and some may even be ageless. How can evolution, biased to early reproductive success at all reasonable cost, produce such a species? Some modelling in this paper: "Senescent aging is an irreversible deterioration in physiological condition with age, which many organisms express even when removed from harmful environmental influences. The inevitability of senescence for repeatedly reproducing organisms has well-developed theoretical foundations. Since reproduction carries physiological costs, natural selection in a hazardous environment favors reaping early benefits, and delaying the cost in physiological decline until later in life when there is a greater chance of being dead from exogenous factors. But some organisms show negligible senescence, and a few, such as Hydra and the Bristlecone Pine, appear to have indefinite lifespans. We ask how such species could have evolved from ancestors with senescent life histories. In large populations, juveniles attempting recruitment into the adult population can be 'crowded out' by already established adults. We show how this phenomenon can trigger a process of runaway selection on ever-reducing senescence, which can even result in the evolution of intrinsic immortality." There are good arguments for learning more about the biology of longevity in species near and far from humans.

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030256

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