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

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Tue Mar 27 09:00:20 UTC 2007

On 3/27/07, Amara Graps <amara at amara.com> wrote:
> 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


Amara, this has been known for some time among aging biologists.  Indeed,
the URL cited seems to be for a reprint from Feb 2001 [1].  There is
currently in preparation a proposal to NHGRI  to sequence the genomes of a
number of longevity "outliers" including the Bowhead Whale.

The stress argument only has limited merit.  There are multiple paths
genomes may take towards redundancy, for example in several species of
sturgeon (which can live to over 100 years), it seems to be due to
polyploidy (or perhaps of other forms of 'genomic redundancy').  In whales,
as in elephants, they are very large compared to humans, therefore they have
many more cells, so they have probably developed better strategies to
prevent cancer (or minimize metastasis).  In which case, one could argue
that they live longer due to there inherent cellular redundancy (more cells
are better if they don't lead to increased cancer probabilities).

Longevity evolves along various vectors given the minimization of the
external hazard function which seems associated with in a shift from
R-selection to K-selection.  The 3 species traits which seem to contribute
highly to this are (1) intelligence; (2) size; and (3) superior defenses,
esp. shells.  If you push on those vectors, longevity, and in turn the
genomic programs which provide that, tend to follow.


1. The initial scientific studies may date to 1999 or earlier.
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