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Surprising diversity in ageing revealed in nature

Not all species weaken and become more likely to die as they age.

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In our youth we are strong and healthy and then we weaken and die - that's probably how most would describe what ageing is all about. But, in nature, the phenomenon of ageing shows an unexpected diversity of patterns and is altogether rather strange, conclude researchers from The University of Southern Denmark.

Not all species weaken and become more likely to die as they age. Some species get stronger and less likely to die with age, while others are not affected by age at all. Increasing weakness with age is not a law of nature.

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have studied ageing in 46 very different species including mammals, plants, fungi and algae, and they surprisingly find that there is a huge diversity in how different organisms age. Some become weaker with age – this applies to e.g. humans, other mammals, and birds; others become stronger with age – this applies to e.g. tortoises and certain trees, and others become neither weaker nor stronger – this applies to e.g. Hydra, a freshwater polyp.

"Many people, including scientists, tend to think that ageing is inevitable and occurs in all organisms on Earth as it does for humans: that every species becomes weaker with age and more likely to die. But that is not the case", says evolutionary biologist and assistant professor Owen Jones from the Max-Planck Odense Center at the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.