Candidate bird species for use in aging research

Steven N. Austad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Birds live about 3 times as long as an average mammal of similar size. They exhibit this remarkable resistance to the degenerative processes of aging despite traits such as elevated body temperature, a rapid metabolic rate, and high blood glucose that might lead one to expect them to be especially short-lived. Although birds appear to age slowly, the patterns of age-related deterioration and development of disease parallel in many ways those of mammals such as humans. Therefore, birds may reveal novel mechanisms of resistance to senescence. A previous impediment to the use of birds in modern biomedical research was the inability to perform targeted genetic manipulations, which has revolutionized the use of other model species. But with the publication of the whole genome sequence of two bird species and the development of gene knockdown technology and tissue-specifi c transgenesis, this impediment seems to be disappearing. At least fi ve bird species deserve special attention for development as models of successful aging. Three of these species-budgerigars, canaries, and zebra fi nches-are common cage birds and are already used extensively in the study of vocal learning and sustained neurogenesis in adulthood. In addition, two wild species-the European starling and the house sparrow-may also make excellent models for aging research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-96
Number of pages8
JournalILAR Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Bird
  • Budgerigar (melopsittacus undulatus)
  • Canary (serinus canaria)
  • Domestication
  • House sparrow (passer domesticus)
  • Longevity
  • Senescence
  • Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
  • Zebra fi nch (taeniopygia guttata)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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