Chinese researchers confirm that social mammals live longer than solitary animals

(ORDO NEWS) — After analyzing the social structure and lifespan of almost a thousand species of mammals, Chinese researchers made an unambiguous conclusion: social animals live longer than solitary ones.

Among mammals, there are species with a wide variety of social organization – from inveterate loners who meet with relatives only for the sake of mating, to monogamous species that maintain relationships with a constant partner for many seasons, and animals leading a group lifestyle.

Maximum lifespans vary equally widely, with small rodents and insectivores like shrews living for a maximum of about two years, while the bowhead whale can live up to 200 years.

Scientists have previously found that strong social ties can prolong life even within the same species: female bear baboons who maintained stable and strong relationships with their relatives lived longer than their compatriots, whose ties were weaker and more disorderly.

However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the evolutionary relationships between sociality and longevity in mammals have long been unclear.

After analyzing data on 974 species of mammals, researchers from the Zoological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (PRC) divided them into three groups according to their lifestyle – solitary, paired or group – and then compared the lifespan of species from different groups.

It turned out that even animals of the same size, but leading a different lifestyle, differ markedly in life expectancy, and loners live noticeably less than those who spend a lot of time in the company of relatives.

The researchers also performed transcriptomic analyzes on 94 mammalian species and identified over 30 genes, hormones, and pathways that link longevity to sociality, more than half of which evolved in parallel under similar selection pressure.

Since a number of genes have been linked to the immune system, the study confirms the previously suggested link between immunity and longevity.

The results of the work prove a molecular link between sociality (and, moreover, the presence of strong social ties) and longevity in a wide variety of mammalian species – from tiny shrews to giant whales and us humans.


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