Researcher Steven Austad Writes a Biweekly Column on Aging Science

This seems like an interesting marker of public awareness of aging science; one of the noted researchers in the field recently started on a biweekly column for a local paper. Links to the columns published to date can be found on this page: "In my last column I discussed something we all know intuitively: Generally speaking, larger species of animals live longer than smaller species and this pattern extends even to whales that live more than 200 years. Are there dramatic exceptions to this rule - like people, for instance? Think of other mammals about our size, such as deer or mountain lions or seals. Don't we live longer than they do? The answer is, 'Yes, we do.' Humans live about five times as long as the average mammal of the same size, which makes us pretty special - but not as special as bats. Texas is bat country, as anyone who has watched millions of bats boil out of Bracken Cave or from under Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge can verify. What many people don't realize is how long bats live. For their size, bats are the longest-lived mammals by far, living up to 10 times as long as an average mammal of similar size. ... Think about this for a second. Your dog or cat, eating the best food science can provide, protected from predators and the elements and vaccinated against all sorts of diseases, is doing well to reach 15 to 20 years of age. By comparison, in order for a bat in the wild to survive it must catch its own prey, elude predators, resist climatic extremes, and avoid a wide range of infectious diseases. Yet despite these challenges, bats can live twice as long as your pampered pet." Current thinking on bat longevity looks to be similar to theories on naked mole rat longevity - it has to do with resistance of cell membranes (and especially mitochondria) to oxidative damage, otherwise known as the membrane pacemaker hypothesis of aging. This is thought to have developed in bats, and in birds, in respond to the metabolic demands of flight.


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