A whale of a life
Among mammal-kind, no creature is known to live longer than the bowhead whale. Many individuals have been aged at well over 100, with one specimen possibly even exceeding 200. Like the Greenland shark, proteins in the eye lenses were used to determine the age of the double centenarian, a method that some scientists have cast doubt over. But another specimen that was dated based on lodged fragments of a 19th-century harpoon was at least 115 to 130 years old.
A study of the bowhead’s genome indicated that the whale’s long life could be down to genes dedicated to DnA repair and cell proliferation, supercharging their immune systems. João Pedro de Magalhães (see Q&A on page 37), who led the research, said, “We know DnA damage and DnA mutation are important for cancer. so when we find genes related to DnA repair and DnA damage responses, we think maybe this could be involved in the longevity and disease resistance of the bowhead.
“in that sense, you don’t find a fountain of youth in the genome, but you find some promising leads.”