At Bucknell University Mark Haussmann has been studying the DNA of storm-petrels, seabirds that have unusually long lives.
From a Bucknell press release:
Mark Haussmann, an assistant professor of biology at Bucknell University, was interested in aging and why some animals live longer, healthier lives while others survive only a few years. Haussmann studied cacti and turtles before zeroing in on a small, marine bird that contradicts traditional assumptions about aging.
“Leach’s storm-petrels should die young but live a long life and break the conventional rules,” he said. “First of all, they’re small, and there tends to be a relationship between body size and life span. Elephants live longer than humans. Humans live longer than mice. So this bird shouldn’t live long, but it does.”
Haussmann, 33, stumbled upon some groundbreaking information in his work. His studies of storm-petrels have shown that certain characteristics of DNA – specifically lengths of the protective telomeres at the tips of DNA – are associated with species that live longer lives and possibly with how susceptible they are to cancer-causing tumors.
His work could be used as a springboard for drug companies studying cell division and cancer-treating drugs.
Full story: Sea birds’ DNA may hold keys to aging and cancer, researcher says…
Abstract: Telomeres and Longevity: Testing an Evolutionary Hypothesis Molecular Biology and Evolution, doi:10.1093/molbev/msm244