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Female Flies Live Longer, Sheds Light on Aging

Dec 02, 2014 03:42 PM EST

In a new study female flies were shown to live longer than their male counterparts, the result of mating pressures, shedding light on the mechanisms involved in aging across species.

According to the results, published in the journal Functional Ecology, mate competition along with survival is tougher on male aging, reducing their lifespan by about a third.

Why is it that some species, like the Drosophila simulans fly used in this study, rapidly age over a matter of days whereas others - like some trees and whales - enjoy long lives across centuries? Researchers from the University of Exeter hope their findings can lead them to the answer.

In the study, the research team subjected a population of D. simulans to both heightened and reduced sexual and natural selection, leaving the insects to these conditions and standing back to watch what happened. In order to elevate sexual selection, for instance, groups of males were housed with single females, and stressful temperature was used to ramp up natural selection.

"We found dramatic differences in the effects of sexual and natural selection on male and female flies. These results could help explain the sex differences in lifespan seen in many species, including humans, and the diverse patterns of aging we observe in nature," researcher David Hosken said in a statement.

It turns out that when sexual and natural selection were relaxed, males and females actually lived for about the same amount of time - 35 days. However, it was when males were subjected to and evolved under elevated sexual selection that females dominated. These conditions created a much shorter lifespan for males - just 24 days - compared to their female cohorts, who died seven days later.

The findings suggest that gender plays a role when it comes to selection response, begging questions about how aging works in this species and a host of others.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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