TED Conversations

Anuraag Reddy

AIESEC India

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Why evolution could never solve aging?

Maybe aging is an essential mechanism to clear out the old and make way for the new like cells within a body?

Maybe every form of life is already close to the upper limit of life expectancy?

Maybe aging is in the nature of carbon based life and metabolism?

Maybe we genetically sacrifice our longevity to survive the stresses of competition.

Emerging Questions:
Is it that our metabolic processes are over-compensated for dominance in their sexual prime which prove detrimental for longevity?

Is it that genes leading to different lifespans are mixed indefinitely in nature that it was never possible to select for it?

Isn't an organism with a longer span of mating at an advantage?

My hypothesis:
In the absence of change in ones environment, or competitive stresses an organism would eventually adapt itself to survive longer.

If every organism is a product of evolution then there must of course be underlying mechanisms within itself to aid such an adaptive process.

Under the influence of adaptive pressure, it would encourage mutation or variations in order create successful variations and also increase the number of life-cycles and so reducing the lifespan.

Under the influence of competitive stress, the dominance would lead to reproductive success and not the span of mating during ones lifespan.

In the absence of change in ones environment leading to adaptive pressure, or competitive stresses from rivals to prove dominance. Species would evolve longer lifespans.

Just a Theory though! But it would predict that

Lifespans of living fossils which have undergone little change in time should be greater than their relatives which have recently evolved.

Life having evolved on geographically isolated places far from intense competitive pressures should have greater lifespans.

Living things higher up in the food-chain or with few natural enemies should have greater lifespans.

Life span in pair bonding species should be higher than tournament species.

Topics: aging evolution
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  • Nov 21 2011: If I remember correctly, the most recent research points to aging not being a natural, self contained process. That is to say, if a person existed in a vaccum after the age of 24, their body would change very little from then on.

    What I remember was that for evolution, growing old is actually an external pressure, where things like bacteria and UV rays and such cause increasing damage to the bodies of living organisms. This gets confused with the natural growth from child into adult which is encoded into our DNA. So in that sense, evolution can't select out the aging process, the aging process is an external pressure evolution uses to do the selecting.
    • Nov 21 2011: This kind of belies the research showing a connection between teleomeres and physical ageing. Even things like perennial plants which rejuvenate themselves through the production of new vegetative growths each season seem to suffer a loss of vigor over time that not even division can reverse.

      I think that the idea of ageing and death as a "disease" is simply incorrect, it is a part of a healthy ecosystem because it supports the cycling of nutrients and ongoing evolution.

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