Why Do Some Animals Have Anti Aging Superpowers?

Some animals only live for a short time while others seem to defy death and live forever. Why do some animals defy death and how is that even possible?

Jul 9, 2024byHolly Ramsey

why do some animals have anti aging superpowersSome animals seem to have anti-aging superpowers that allow them to live two, three, or even ten times longer than their animal cousins. What gives them these superpowers and how do they defy death to live to mind-boggling old ages? Let’s dive in and find out what causes some animals to live so long.

Age Is Just a Number

naked mole rat burrow
Image credit: foxnews.com

The naked mole rat can live over 28 years while the common house rat barely lives past 3 years. Lobsters grow stronger as they age, and turtles seem to live forever. Parrots can live over 60 years but sparrows only survive 4-5 years.

What makes some animals live longer? It boils down to metabolic and genetic tricks. The use of energy to maintain daily bodily functions, DNA repair, and those elusive anti-aging superpowers keep wild bats, turtles, lobsters, elephants, whales, and mole rats thriving well past their expected lifespan.

Biological senescence, or aging, is the continuous breakdown or molecular damage of an organism’s body. Greying hair, sagging skin, and slower movements are signs of aging but some animals do not age as quickly as you would think and do not show signs of aging for most of their long lives.

What is Senescence?

marsh crocodile
Image credit: Britannica.com

The natural process of aging is where an animal experiences functional and physical changes as it grows older. The eventual decline in the animal’s overall health and vitality leading to its death is senescence.

Negligible senescence is when an animal does not age or ages very slowly. Turtles, crocodilians, salamanders, and tuatara have showed slow or even negligible senescence. Many of these species have even shown signs of being able to regenerate their cells including limbs.

What Causes Animals to Age?

adult elephant with baby
Image credit: ourgreennatureworld.blogspot.com

Some animals develop quickly, then reach maturity quickly, reproduce, and then quickly die. Then, some animals develop slowly and take years to reach maturity and reproduce, then they live longer lives past reproductive age before they die. Scientists have spent countless hours researching the anomaly of some long-lived animals.

Small Animal Species

lobsters crustaceans
Image credit: wallup.net

Lobsters, when not caught for food, will live on seemingly forever. Their DNA can repair itself indefinitely and their limbs can grow back if they are severed. Lobsters have telomerase enzymes in their cells, these enzymes keep these crustaceans from aging.

Turtles have discovered that low energy consumption is the key to a long life. They can sustain life by using little energy from the food they consume. Turtles also hibernate, allowing them to live longer. As cold-blooded animals, turtles do not need excessive energy to keep warm and they can keep a lot of stored energy allowing them to live longer.

Naked mole rats are best known for their unique appearance but their cellular repair abilities are what keeps them living almost 10 times longer than the common house rat or mouse. The ribosomes help assemble proteins in their cells and regenerate. The naked role rat ages very slowly, living 28-30 years.

Large Animal Species

killer whale jumping out of water
Image credit: cbsnews.com

Elephants and whales have youthful DNA that allows them to enjoy long lives. Their methyl groups, or youthful chemical tags, can turn their genes on and off. This allows their bodies to control their gene activity and keeps them younger longer.

Being such large animals, they do not have many predators, except humans, actively hunting them. This gives them a better chance of surviving well into old age and allows scientists to collect data on them as they grow older.

Death Defying Animals

immortal jellyfish
Image credit: usatoday.com

Some animals just do not seem to die. The immortal jellyfish comes to mind. The immortal jellyfish, or Turritopsis doohmii, can reverse their aging process when they are injured or sick. They simply turn themselves back into their polyp or younger self for three days while they regenerate.

The water bear or moss piglet, scientifically known as tardigrade, is an invertebrate immune to being destroyed. These interesting, 8-legged micro-animals can bring their metabolism to a complete stop and extend their lives indefinitely.

Monorhaphis chuni, or deep-sea corals, are animals that can live up to 11,000 years. There are many theories as to why they live so long, one popular theory is that they stay put in their safe space and let everything else come to them. Corals are made of identical units so if some of the units or body parts die, there are new identical ones to take their place, making it an endless cycle.

Animals with the Longest Lifespans

greenland shark
Image credit: reddit.com

Some animals seem to defy death and live long, healthy lives. The bigger an animal is, the harder it is for them to be prey. This does not include humans hunting these animals for sport or food. The declining elephant population comes to mind as poachers hunt them for the ivory in their tusks.

  • Bowhead Whales – can live up to 200 years
  • Elephants – live about 65 years
  • Bats – certain species live up to 40 years
  • Greenland Sharks – can live up to 500 years
  • Ocean Quahog – can live up to 500 years
  • Galapagos Tortoises – in their natural environment can live past 150 years

The animals that can defy death can do so by avoiding predators, slowing their metabolism, regenerating their cellular makeup, and in some cases reversing aging. These animals have developed ways to continue to live their lives without the threat of aging quickly and dying young. Unlike some animals that only live a few short days or years, these animals roam the earth in some cases for 150 years or more.

Holly Ramsey
byHolly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.