Diverse aging rates in ectothermic tetrapods provide insights for the evolution of aging and longevity
Science (New York, N.Y.)
Comparative studies of mortality in the wild are necessary to understand the evolution of aging; yet, ectothermic tetrapods are underrepresented in this comparative landscape, despite their suitability for testing evolutionary hypotheses. We present a study of aging rates and longevity across wild tetrapod ectotherms, using data from 107 populations (77 species) of nonavian reptiles and amphibians. We test hypotheses of how thermoregulatory mode, environmental temperature, protective phenotypes, and pace of life history contribute to demographic aging. Controlling for phylogeny and body size, ectotherms display a higher diversity of aging rates compared with endotherms and include phylogenetically widespread evidence of negligible aging. Protective phenotypes and life-history strategies further explain macroevolutionary patterns of aging. Analyzing ectothermic tetrapods in a comparative context enhances our understanding of the evolution of aging.