Early comparisons with rats, mice, and other short-lived creatures confirmed the hunch. But now, the first-ever multi-species comparison of human aging patterns with those in chimps, gorillas, and other primates suggests the pace of human aging may not be so unique after all. The findings appear in the March 11 issue of Science. You don't need to read obituaries or sell life insurance to know that death and disease become more common as we transition from middle to old age. But scientists studying creatures from mice to fruit flies long assumed the aging clock ticked more slowly for humans.
We had good reason to think human aging was unique, said co-author Anne Bronikowski of Iowa State University. For one, humans live longer than many animals. There are some exceptions – parrots, seabirds, clams and tortoises can all outlive us – but humans stand out as the longest-lived primates. “Humans live for many more years past our reproductive prime,” Bronikowski said. “If we were like other mammals, we would start dying fairly rapidly after we reach mid-life. But we don't,” she explained.