Large Gender Differences in Spider Longevity

Species with large differences in longevity between the genders - sometimes tenfold or more - might teach us something about the comparative importance of different mechanisms in aging. In bees, it appears to have much to do with resisting oxidative stress, and this looks to be the case for tarantulas as well: "Reactive oxygen species (ROS), i.e., the by-products of oxidative metabolism, have emerged as the main proximate cause of ageing. Because ROS are mainly produced by the mitochondria, their production is linked to metabolic rate, and this may explain the differences in longevity between large and small species. ... Mitochondrial superoxide production of hemolymph immune cells and antioxidant and oxidative damages plasma levels were measured in adult male and female [tarantulas] at different ages. We found that female spiders are producing less mitochondrial superoxide, are better protected against oxidative attack and are then suffering less oxidative damages than males at adulthood. ... once reaching sexual maturity, males have a life expectancy reduced to 1 to 2 years, while females can still live for 20 years, in spite of the fact that females continue to grow and moult. This study evidences an increased exposure of males to oxidative stress due to an increase in mitochondrial superoxide production and a decrease in hemolymph antioxidant defences. Such a phenomenon is likely to be part of the explanation for the sharp reduction of longevity accompanying male tarantula maturity."


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