29 January 2018

From the life of diggers

Google biologists have discovered a new "superpower" of naked diggers


Sergey Vasiliev, Naked Science

Despite their modest appearance, naked diggers certainly belong to the "superheroes" of the animal kingdom. These rodents are known for their exceptional longevity, high sociality, resistance to cancer, lack of oxygen and many other dangerous factors. In an article by Ruby et al. Naked mole-rat mortality rates defy Gompertzian laws by not increasing with age, published by eLife magazine, scientists reveal a new "superpower" of naked diggers: the ability to practically not age.

Upon reaching adulthood, humans, and the vast majority of other animals, die, obeying the statistical dependence that Benjamin Gompertz found at the beginning of the XIX century. There is nothing unexpected in it: according to the Gompertz distribution, the probability of death increases over the years. We have it growing almost logarithmically: the probability of death at 20 is ten times lower than at 60. However, Rochelle Buffenstein and her colleagues from the Google company Calico Life Sciences have shown that the mortality of naked diggers (Heterocephalus glaber) does not follow this relationship.

Over decades of research, scientists have collected statistics on a total of 3,299 diggers, finding that the probability of death in adults is about 0.0001 – regardless of the number of years lived. They grow up around the age of six months, and the average life span in the laboratory is about six years – which, by the way, is several times longer than the life expectancy of all other rodents, especially rodents of similar sizes. At the same time, some individuals of naked diggers safely live up to 30, even retaining the ability to mate.

"Our work shows that naked diggers do not age as it does in other mammals," says Rochelle Bafenstein, – and show almost no signs of aging, or do not show them at all. The risk of mortality in them does not increase even when the animal is 25 times the age of puberty. This once again convinces us of the exclusivity of naked diggers."

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