[extropy-chat] Addwaita:250 years is a long time.
joao at genetics.med.harvard.edu
Fri Mar 31 21:30:28 UTC 2006
Thank you, Robert.
Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible for Addwaita to be 250 years old;
I'm just saying that we can't confirm it. As for the Aldabra tortoise
record in my database, I don't remember for sure but I believe this refers
to the specimen kept at a British fort in Mauritius. While this claim might
also be classified as anecdotal, it has been investigated by some of the
earlier people keeping track of longevity records (Flower, Comfort, etc.),
making it a lot more plausible.
There are plenty of similar dubious cases either a product of tracking
errors or wishful thinking: a 49 year-old cow, dogs living 30 years, lab
mice living 6 years, etc. Unless they are clearly errors, I mention such
cases in my database -- I'll certainly add Addwaita --, but only if they
have been verified by credible experts do I include them as the longevity
record-holders for that particular species. For instance, a couple of
months ago, someone pointed out to me a 86 year-old elephant that died at a
Taipei zoo. I did some research and found out that the animal only lived
about 60 years at the zoo -- by no means a record --, being acquired at an
unknown age, and thus without any way of finding its true age at death. I
mentioned the case in the observations but did not consider it the
The Madagascar radiated tortoise is also classified as anecdotal in my
database, BTW, even though I mention it.
If Aldabra tortoises grow throughout its life, and I'm not sure but I
believe they do, then it might be possible to estimate Addwaita's age at
death from its body weight and size at the time of death.
At 02:49 AM 28/3/2006, you wrote:
>My dictionary ("The Collaborative International Dictionary of English",
>apparently derived from Webster (1913)) defines "anecdote" as:
> "A particular or detached incident or fact of an interesting nature; a
> biographical incident or fragment; a single passage of private life."
>Joao's problem is that the documentation is a collection of stories... who
>brought the tortoise to India, how long Lord Robert Clive kept him in his
>garden, etc. -- the more robust documentation is only from when the
>tortoise became a resident at the Calcutta zoo in 1875. But there is no
>good way of verifying that that tortoise was not obtained from the
>Seychelles in 1875 instead of much earlier (all of the people involved are
>now dead). So one may only have individual accounts (dairies, an
>occasional newspaper story, etc.) and so one may have significant
>difficulty confirming them.
>The somewhat less anecdotal tortoise longevity story involves a Madagascar
>radiated tortoise (Geochelone radiata), known as "Tui Malila" which
>Captain James Cook presented to the Tongan royal family in 1773 or
>1777. That tortoise was either 188 or 192 years old at its death in 1965.
>Joao is one of the world's authorities in this area (documenting the
>maximum longevities of various species). If he could reasonably
>extend the longevity of a species I suspect that he would -- but one
>doesn't become an "authority" by making assertions that can easily be
>It will be interesting to see if efforts to date Addwaita using carbon
>dating will yield any useful information (I don't believe the carbon
>dating can be used with much certainty for periods of hundreds of years).
>extropy-chat mailing list
>extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, PhD
Harvard Medical School, Dept. of Genetics
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Room 238
Boston, MA 02115
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