Species360 Conservation Science Alliance researches turtles

Type 360, art organization that facilitates international cooperation in collecting, sharing and analyzing wildlife knowledge, revealed that data from its Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) has allowed researchers to further explore theories of evolutionary aging in turtles.

Death and the contributing factors leading to it have long been a fascination for humans and especially for scientists studying zoological species with different life spans. Although humans generally live longer than they did a century ago, studies show that turtles may follow a different aging process than humans and other species in general.

Evolutionary theories have long assumed that living organisms follow a process known as senescence, in which animals weaken and deteriorate with age, culminating in death. The conservation science alliance Species360 and the University of Southern Denmark now have data showing that some animal species may show slower or even negligible aging if their living conditions are improved.

Quality of life means longer life

The Science journal publishes data from the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), which surveys 52 species of turtles and tortoises found in zoos and aquariums around the world. They concluded that, unlike humans and other species, turtles and tortoises may actually defy common evolutionary theories and reduce the rate of aging in response to improvements in environmental conditions.

Of the turtle species studied, extremely slow aging was observed in 75%, with 80% aging more slowly than modern humans.

“We find that some of these species can reduce their rate of aging in response to improved living conditions in zoos and aquariums compared to the wild,” says the study’s co-author Prof. Dalia Conde Director of Science for Species360 and Head of the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance.

“Not Immortal”

Organisms that continue to grow after puberty are thought to have the ability to repair cellular damage and are therefore considered ideal candidates for reducing the harmful effects of aging.

Conde was assisted in the study by Dr. Ferdinand ColcheroChief Statistical Analyst of the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Southern Denmark.

Colchero says, “It’s worth noting that the fact that some turtle species show little aging doesn’t mean they’re immortal; it only means that their risk of death does not increase with age, but is still greater than zero.

“In short, they will all eventually die from unavoidable causes of mortality, such as disease.”

An international effort

The study was made viable with the help of over 1,200 international Species360 member institutions and recorders who committed to collecting and maintaining wildlife data.

Not-for-profit Species360’s ZIMS is the most comprehensive database of animal knowledge known worldwide and acts as a key tool for unlocking essential information about species to support care and conservation.

The Conservation Science Alliance benefits from the support of its major sponsoring partners; Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, Mandai Wildlife Group in Singapore and World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

The Species360 Conservation Science Alliance is also working with the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior (MPI-AB) and the University of Southern Denmark to study of the relationship between brain size and life span.

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