Posted on Jan 06, 2020, 3 p.m.
Scientists claim to have created a lifespan clock which provides an accurate maximum age estimate for vertebrates which is a key variable in the study of living and extinct animals; the study published in the journal Scientific Reports describes how they identified specific areas of DNA that have been linked to lifespan which were checked against existing databases of animal ages.
"Using 252 whole genomes and databases of animal age and promoter sequences, we show a pattern across vertebrates," they said. “We also derive a predictive lifespan clock... (which) accurately predicts maximum lifespan in vertebrates."
According to Benjamin Mayne of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization their work appears to be the first of its kind to build a "genetic predictive model to estimate the lifespan of vertebrate species from genetic markers."
The study investigated "poorly understood and extinct species", for example the Woolly Mammoth which was likely to live for about 60 years and compare with today’s African elephant that lives to be about 65 years old.
"The lifespan clock estimated a 38-year lifespan for humans," the team said, in line with the accepted maximum life expectancy of 40 years for pre-modern man but less than half that of his contemporary today; the scientists also investigated Neanderthals and Denisovans which are two of man’s immediate predecessors.
"We estimated that Denisovans and Neanderthals both had a lifespan of 37.8 years. This suggests that these extinct Hominidae species had similar lifespans to their early human... counterparts," they said.
According to Mayne this lifespan clock can’t be used for individual human beings even if it was "...an interesting part of the study,” he stressed. “It cannot be used to determine the lifespan of any individual human and the purpose of this study was to determine an important parameter of ecological significance which may assist in wildlife management," he added.
The scientists suggest that their lifespan clock can however be applied to managing species such as fish, sharks and threatened wild animals "where lifespan is critical in determining sustainable harvests and population viability," the paper said.
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