Costa Rican Turtles Contribute to Scientific Research

    A new study published in Science Magazine: Tortoises challenge evolutionary theories of aging

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    Data from the tortoises of the Simón Bolívar National Zoological Park and Botanical Garden found in the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) have allowed researchers from the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and the University of Southern Denmark to investigate the theories of evolutionary characteristics of aging in turtles and tortoises.

    Although human beings have a longer life expectancy compared to our ancestors, we cannot escape the fatality of aging and death. However, the Testudines (order to which the water and land turtles belong) can counteract this tendency by following an aging pattern different from that of humans and other species.

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    A study published in the Science Magazine

    Evolutionary theories of aging predict that all living organisms weaken and deteriorate with age (a process known as senescence), eventually dying. Now, researchers from the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and the University of Southern Denmark (USD) show that some animal species, such as turtles and tortoises, may experience slower or even non-existent senescence when their living conditions improve.

    In a new study published in the journal Science, researchers used data from the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) to study 52 species of turtles and tortoises living in zoos and aquariums around the world, including the Simón Bolívar National Zoological Park and Botanical Garden.

    They found that, unlike humans and other species, turtles and tortoises defy common evolutionary theories and can slow the rate of aging in response to improvements in environmental conditions. Many of them age more slowly and, in some cases, their senescence is insignificant. Of a total of 52 turtles and tortoises, 75% show extremely slow senescence, while 80% have slower senescence than modern man.

    We see that some of these species can reduce their rate of aging in response to the improved living conditions found in zoos and aquariums, unlike those found in the wild, said Dalia Conde, head of Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and associate professor in the Department of Biology of the USD.

    Over 1,200 Species and 360 member institutions

    Some evolutionary theories predict that senescence appears after sexual maturity, as a trade-off between the energy that an individual invests in repairing damage to their cells and tissues, and the energy that they invest in reproduction so that their genes pass on to the next generations.

    This compensation implies, among other things, that after reaching sexual maturity, individuals stop growing and begin to experience senescence, a gradual deterioration of vital functions with age.

    The study is made possible by more than 1,200 Species360 member institutions and registrars who regularly collect and maintain data on wildlife around the world. The NGO Species360’s ZIMS system is the largest database of animal knowledge in the world, crucial to revealing a critical view of species to help in their care and conservation.

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