Old Whales and Young Gobies: Some Thoughts on the Evolution of Aging

Today I jump sections at the New York Times. In the Week In Review, I take a look at the news of a bowhead whale that carried a harpoon tip for 115 years. It’s a cool discovery, but 115 years is actually not extraordinarily long for a bowhead whale–or a rockeye rockfish. Both those animals can live over 200 years. In today’s essay, I reflect on the evolution of old age (as well as the evolution of fleetingly short life spans). If you want to head for some scientific sources, check out the web site of Linda Partridge, a leading thinker on the evolution of aging at University College London. She’s got lots of pdf’s posted there, such as this 2006 review of the new field of “evo-gero”–evolutionary gerontology. And if you want to know just how long a tree frog can live (22 years!), check out the AnAge Database.