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How dinosaurs influence human aging 65 million years after extinction

An intriguing new study introduces the ‘longevity bottleneck’ hypothesis, which suggests human aging may be intricately linked to the long period of dinosaur dominance on Earth.

This concept was brought to light by Professor João Pedro de Magalhães, a renowned expert in the field of aging from the University of Birmingham. The hypothesis presents a fascinating connection between the reign of dinosaurs over 100 million years ago and the biological aging processes observed in mammals, including humans.

Mesozoic Era and mammalian aging

The Mesozoic Era, marked by the domination of dinosaurs, posed significant challenges for early mammals. According to Professor de Magalhães, mammals during this era were under constant pressure for rapid reproduction, primarily due to the threat posed by dinosaurs.

This prolonged period of evolutionary stress, spanning over 100 million years, is believed to have led to the loss or inactivation of longevity-related genes in early mammals.

Professor Magalhães elaborates on this theory. He states, “We and these mammals, such as elephants and whales, live with the genetic hangups from the Mesozoic era and we age surprisingly faster than many reptiles.”

He further adds, “The ‘longevity bottleneck hypothesis’ may shed light on evolutionary forces that have shaped the way that mammals have aged over millions of years. While humans are among the longest-living animals, there are many reptiles and other species that exhibit a much slower aging process and minimal signs of senescence.”

Dinosaur dominance and human aging

Professor de Magalhães explains that the earliest mammals, relegated to the lower tiers of the food chain, evolved to prioritize rapid reproduction as a survival strategy during the age of dinosaurs. This evolutionary pressure, he proposes, significantly impacts how modern humans age.

“We see examples in the animal world of truly remarkable repair and regeneration. That genetic information would have been unnecessary for early mammals that were lucky to not end up as T Rex food,” says Professor de Magalhães.

He highlights that while mammals including humans, whales, and elephants have evolved to grow larger and live longer, they still bear the genetic consequences of the Mesozoic era, aging faster than many reptiles.

Broader implications and future research

Professor de Magalhães suggests that this hypothesis, while still in the realm of theory, opens up numerous intriguing research directions. One such avenue is exploring why cancer may be more prevalent in mammals than in other species, possibly due to the rapid aging process instigated during the dinosaur era.

The ‘longevity bottleneck’ hypothesis posits a profound and previously unexplored connection between the reign of dinosaurs and the aging process in mammals. This theory provides a novel perspective on the evolutionary history of aging, while also paving the way for further research into the genetic and environmental factors that have influenced mammalian longevity over millions of years.

Professor de Magalhães’ pioneering work opens up a new frontier in understanding the complex interplay between evolution, genetics, and aging.

The full study was published in the journal BioEssays.

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