Shreveport Aquarium contributes to important study on turtle aging

They are working with others to examine 52 species of turtles and tortoises
Shreveport Aquarium is involved in a study showing turtles defy aging evolution theories.
Shreveport Aquarium is involved in a study showing turtles defy aging evolution theories.(Jackie Thorley | Shreveport Aquarium)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 8:32 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2022 at 5:25 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Imagine living as long as a turtle does? Study shows that, unlike humans, turtles defy evolution theories.

In the new study published in the journal, Science, multiple zoos and aquariums including the Shreveport Aquarium shared data in the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS). The combined shared data helped researchers discover that turtles defy the rules of common evolution theories. They slow their rate of aging in response to improvements in environmental conditions.

Shreveport Aquarium is involved in a study showing turtles defy aging evolution theories.
Shreveport Aquarium is involved in a study showing turtles defy aging evolution theories.(Jackie Thorley with Jackie Thorley Photography)

“Here at the Shreveport Aquarium we are dedicated to ensuring our animals receive the highest quality of care and welfare available, says Kayla Leyden, Curator of Live Exhibits at Shreveport Aquarium. “Our biologists make daily observations and record life history data on the animals at our facility. We have 15 native North American aquatic turtles that participated in this study to help researchers better understand how aging occurs in these species. Many of our native North American turtle species are under threat and need our protection. We are very excited the data we have collected on our aquatic turtles have contributed to the management and conservation of these animals.”

Evolution theories of aging predict that most living organisms deteriorate with age, a process known as senescence.

Accordingly, out of 52 turtle and tortoise species, 75 percent show extremely slow senescence, while 80 percent have slower senescence than modern humans.

“We find that some of these species can reduce their rate of aging in response to the improved living conditions found in zoos and aquariums, compared to the wild. In addition, modern zoological organizations play an important role in conservation, education, and research, and this study shows the immense value of zoos and aquariums keeping records for the advancement of science.”

Study co-author, Prof. Dalia Conde, Species360 director of science, head of the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance

Some evolution aging theories predict that aging appears after maturity as a trade-off between the energy an organism invests in repairing cells and dedicating that energy instead to reproduction. This has been proven to be evitable for many species, mostly mammals and birds.

Turtles and tortoises instead keep growing after it matures, and it’s believed they are able to keep investing energy in repairing cell damage. This means they could be vital in learning how to reduce aging and avoiding the harmful effects of growing old.

It is worth noting that the fact that some species of turtle and tortoise show negligible senescence does not mean they are immortal; it only means that their risk of death does not increase with age, but it is still larger than zero. In short, all of them will eventually die due to unavoidable causes of mortality such as illness,”

Dr. Fernando Colchero, principal statistical analyst, Species360 CSA, associate professor at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Southern Denmark.

The Science study results are available here: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abl7811

For more information about the study and other projects using ZIMS data, please visit: https://conservation.species360.org/in-the-news/

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