Live Longer: Live Wild

2012, Nature  -  50 min Leave a Comment
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In this documentary nature's "golden oldies" reveal new secrets for how to live longer. The animal kingdom has some long lived record breakers. Who holds the title for the oldest species on the planet and has been alive since the last ice age? Is it true that an animal that was discovered by Charles Darwin is still alive today? And if science can triple the lifespan of a fly can it do it for us?

Believe it or not some of it comes down to what we all do naturally - sex. It puts you on the planet and some aging scientists believe it's one of the biggest factors that determines the day you die. At the Institute for Ageing and Health in the UK, Professor Tom Kirkwood, a world's authority on the science of aging is trying to find out why?

The key to understanding the differences in the rate of aging, how long an animal lives, really have a lot to do with how that animal organizes its sex life. So for example if you're a shrew then you're producing lots of babies quite often, because in particular shrews live a very dangerous kind of life and they get eaten by predators very readily. Then you need a body that's geared towards making babies fast.

If you go the other end of the spectrum and imagine you're an elephant your reproduction takes much longer. You have fewer offspring and so you need a body that's not going to age so quickly. Elephants can afford to take their time when it comes to sex because they've evolved a different strategy. They have few natural predators and can live up to 70 years. Their lifespan may be longer but the purpose is the same, to pass on their genes. Sex evolved because of the need to pass genes whereas the body is disposable, but the question is "how long do you have?"