[extropy-chat] Bowhead Whales May be the World's Oldest Mammals

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Tue Mar 27 07:33:30 UTC 2007

I wonder what the the anti-aging scientists can learn from the Bowhead
whales? I don't buy the 'stress' argument, given below; it should
shorten the ages, instead. There must be another key to their long life.


Bowhead Whales May be the World's Oldest Mammals


Bada found that most of the adult whales were between 20 and 60 years
old when they died, but five males were much older. One was 91, one was
135, one 159, one 172, and the oldest whale was 211 years old at the
time of its death. That whale, alive during the term of President
Clinton, was also gliding slowly and gracefully through the Bering,
Chukchi and Beaufort seas when Thomas Jefferson was president.

Bada explained that the method of measuring changes in aspartic acid to
determine age has an accuracy range of about 16 percent, which means the
211 year-old bowhead could have been from 177 to 245 years old.

The oldest known ages for mammals are 110 years for a blue whale and 114
years for a fin whale, based on a Japanese scientist's counting of waxy
laminates on the inner ear plug of the whales, a method that does not
work for bowheads. The oldest living person with a birth certificate was
a 122-year-old woman from France who died in 1997. Elephants have lived
to 70 in captivity, so bowheads may be the oldest mammals that exist.

Why do bowhead whales live so long? George speculated that the bowhead's
tough environment-cold water without abundant food available-forces it
to maintain a great body mass, an effective system for fat storage and
an efficient mechanism to keep warm. The stress of living in arctic
waters may nurture the whale's pattern of slow growth and long life.

"They just take longer to do what mammals do farther south," said Craig,
who added that he has taken a bowhead's approach to higher education as
he pursues a Ph.D. through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Like
me-I'm closing in on 50 and I'm still in graduate school"



Amara Graps, PhD      www.amara.com
INAF Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario (IFSI), Roma, ITALIA
Associate Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute (PSI), Tucson

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