Cats, "Rats," and Bats: The comparative biology of aging in the 21st century

Steven N. Austad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Synopsis Laboratory models have suggested a link between metabolism and life span in vertebrates, and it is well known that the evolution of specific life histories can be driven by metabolic factors. However, little is known regarding how the adoption of specific life-history strategies can shape aging and life span in populations facing different energetic demands from either a theoretical or a mechanistic viewpoint but significant insight can be gained by using a comparative approach. Comparative biology plays several roles in our understanding of the virtually ubiquitous phenomenon of aging in animals. First, it provides a critical evaluation of broad hypotheses concerning the evolutionary forces underlying the modulation of aging rate. Second, it suggests mechanistic hypotheses about processes of aging. Third, it illuminates particularly informative species because of their exceptionally slow or rapid aging rates to be interrogated about potentially novel mechanisms of aging. Although comparative biology has played a significant role in research on aging for more than a century, the new comparative biology of aging is poised to dwarf those earlier contributions, because: (1) new cellular and molecular techniques for investigating novel species are in place and more are being continually generated, (2) molecular systematics has resolved the phylogenetic relationships among a wide range of species, which allow for the implementation of analytic tools specialized for comparative biology, and (3) in addition to facilitating the construction of accurate phylogenies, the dramatic acceleration in DNA-sequencing technology is providing us with new tools for a comparative genomic approach to understanding aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-792
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Cats, "Rats," and Bats: The comparative biology of aging in the 21st century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this