The Influence Of Body Size

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A number of factors correlate with tmax, and while this work is about species selection, not the methodology of comparative biology, there is one factor that must be mentioned: body size (Promislow, 1993). Clearly, bigger species, including mammals, live longer, on average, than shorter-lived species (Austad, 2005). Exceptions exist and, for example, gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) are typically bigger than humans and still do not live longer than us. Likewise, bats live longer than predicted from their body size. Nonetheless, when comparing parameters across species it is crucial to take body size into consideration. Otherwise we could make the mistake of correlating some physiological factor with body size, not with longevity or aging. For example, early studies indicated that DNA repair capacity was higher in longer-lived mammals, arguing that DNA repair was a factor in aging (Hart and Setlow, 1974). Yet it has been argued that the correlation between DNA repair and longevity is due to the fact that bigger animals live longer and, for reasons unrelated to aging, have better DNA repair mechanisms (Promislow, 1994). In other words, the evolution of aging rates and DNA repair may have been related to body size and thus independent from one another. Therefore, body size is a factor that comparative studies of aging must take into consideration. It is necessary that we devise appropriate methods to exclude or at least minimize the impact of body size in such studies, and a careful selection of species may also minimize these problems.

Among primates, longer-lived species tend to be bigger with bigger brains, and hence the problems cited above must also be taken into consideration. One way to minimize these problems is the inclusion of negative controls. For example, pairs of species that age similarly but that differ in body size may be employed: gorillas may age at the same pace as chimpanzees even though the former are considerably bigger. Choosing different species with similar aging processes may then be necessary. Likewise, choosing species that live longer than expected for their body size is important: the white-faced capuchin is a good example of a relatively small primate with a tmax comparable to that of apes (Table 2.1).

Assuming mechanisms of aging are conserved between rodents and humans, which is debatable in itself, it may be worthwhile to consider other rodents besides rats and mice. For instance, long-lived rodents like porcupines (Erethizontidae and Hystricidae families), which may live over 20 years, and the naked-mole rat (Heterocephalus

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