TED Conversations

Allan Hotti

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Is aging an inherited or acquired trait?

Aging, senescence and death have no direct survival benefit for the individual or his/her genes. Does this trait survive because it manifests itself after the reproductive years are over? Aging does not interfere with reproduction: so this allows this trait to survive. One can argue that the trait "cell death" has societal benefit, but this cannot explain it's persistence unless one uses teleological notions. Do all traits that manifest themselves after the reproductive years are over, tend to persist? Do elephants and tortoises have altered DNA's that promote longevity?

0
Share:
progress indicator
  • thumb
    Apr 29 2013: Death has no survival benefit? I nominate that for Understatement of the Year 2013! Clearly aging is an acquired trait because it cannot be acquired by those who die at birth or shortly thereafter. It takes time to acquire age. Aloha!
  • May 2 2013: Hi Allan,
    have you seen Jane Fonda's presentation, "Life's Third Act"?
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_fonda_life_s_third_act.html

    Talk about aging gracefully, Ms. Fonda talks about age being a time to acquire wisdom and complete one's self. She is speaking from a purely spiritual point of view, of course, not biologically...

    In the documentary "The Human Face", John Cleese "...expounds on the idea that as you get older your habitual expressions become etched into your face, showing the world what kind of person you are. "If you're beautiful when you get older," he says, "it's not a free gift. It's because your face shows qualities that are timeless—strength, kindness, dedication, wisdom, enthusiasm, and humor, intelligence, compassion."

    Is it too simple of me to say, that 'growing old gracefully' is a choice?
  • thumb
    May 2 2013: "Do elephants and tortoises have altered DNA's that promote longevity?"

    Longevity is one thing. I suggest you look at evolution's exceptions like the fish with legs - Axolotl. It has incredible self-preservation resources, luckily it has been saved by us to be studied. It was almost extinct in South-America.

    When it comes to altered DNA - we mutate, evolve all the time either for the better, or not. Evolution is the survival of the fittest, not the most beautiful, the most intelligent, not the strongest in a physical sense. No. The fittest, the most adaptable to the new environment. This should be a lesson for everybody.
  • May 2 2013: Thank you for your thoughts. The "population explosion" reason for death seems to me to be a teleological one and not a mechanistic one. Can genes know beforehand that it is important to die?
  • May 2 2013: it's both as there are jellyfish in this world that never truly die but live cycles over and over from the same body. But thinking of it like that also implies that we never die yes our ego and mind dies but all our genetic information is passed down restarting the cycle just like the immortal jellyfish. But to directly answer your question it's inherited the death gene is passed down from generation to generation but it also could be acquired as i do not know if our original evolutionary ancestors did live forever. And you're wrong about us dying having no benefit to our genes it DOES when we were just apes if we never died of age our species population would explode and consume all natural recourses then die slowly and horribly most likely eating our own kind before the end. But it brings up a good question that is, what is the switch off point in its environment for organisms from becoming imortal to mortal.
  • Apr 30 2013: Excellent Allan.
  • thumb
    Apr 30 2013: I think it is a finite condition, not a trait.
    Personally I believe we are in this world for the next. So the older we get, the longer we have to wait :)

    I just wish my car would not age so fast and last a bit longer..
  • thumb
    Apr 29 2013: Lifestyle, food habit, environment etc seems have impact on aging process so seems it should be acquired........
    There are some conditions i.e. disease which are genetically inherited.
    Giving straight forward answer about whether it's inherited / acquired willn't be scientific.
  • Apr 29 2013: The human Hayfleck limit is 25 For certain tortoses it's a much larger number - their life expectancy is greater. Do you want to be a tortose?
    • Apr 29 2013: If tortoises keep reproducing into old age, longevity may be describes as a useful adaptive trait and study of their DNA might reveal some surprising secrets. To be a tortoise ... No ... to use some of their secretes ... maybe.
  • Apr 29 2013: Thank you for your thoughts.
  • Apr 29 2013: acquired trait.

    inheritance gives us the power to longevity and a blissful life.

    but our subconscious mind programmed with the so called Phenomenon simply retards the idea of longevity.

    elephants and tortoises are slow, generate lower tissue waste and are less stressed and hasty than humans. they might be able to feel emotions, but as far as age is concerned, they are not programmed with the idea of aging right from the point they are born.

    i guess they don't get tired of living ;)

    i am not really well conversed with the terms you put up, but this topic attracts my attention since i recently heard about a book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra. that could help.

    as a final word, it seems to be an acquired trait.
    • thumb
      Apr 29 2013: .
      Yes!
      It is acquired mainly via our ancestors' successful experiences.
      This is the most economical way for keeping our DNA alive.
      • Apr 29 2013: If success (longevity) is only measurable long long after reproductive years are over, why does the trait continue to exist? ... or is it just an accidental trait that has no adaptive value and is waiting to peter out. I may be mistaken but it seems to me that a trait must prolong or make more efficient the reproductive years to be adaptive and enhance reproduction of beings or their adapted genes. Mother Nature keeps so so many secrets.
        • thumb
          Apr 30 2013:

          Thanks!
          I would guess:

          The optimally economical life-span can be fed back to DNA
          through their young offspring being in reproductive age.

          Wrong?