Fascinating article here about the anomalous longevity of bats from the Summer 2006 issue of Bats magazine. It begins with discussion about a healthy male bat in Siberia who was first banded in 1964, so in 2006 was at least 41 years old.
According to Robert Locke
Bats, Podlutsky said in an interview, break the rules of longevity. “They are the grand champions. It is very well established that in mammals, longevity depends on size. You have this correlation between body mass and longevity: [the smaller the animal, the shorter the life span]. Except for bats. With a very small body size, they live much, much longer.” The Gerontology paper said longevity of more than 20 years is documented for 22 bat species and more than 30 years for six species. “That is why bats are so interesting to gerontologists, because of this paradox,” said Podlutsky, associate professor of cellular and structural biology. “If you want to learn to swim, you take lessons from someone who swims well. Studying [aging in] bats is like having an Olympic champion as your swimming teacher.”
The scientists said that the Brandt’s myotis had lived 9.8 times longer than would have been expected based on its “longevity quotient” (maximum age standardized by body size). That is the highest value ever reported for any mammal, including those maintained in captivity. The human longevity quotient, with a record documented life span of 122 years, is 4.5, Podlutsky said. And as important as the bat’s great age is the fact that it reached that age in the wild, not in the protected and well-fed captivity of a laboratory. Even after 41 years, Podlutsky said, the bat’s physical functions must have been very well preserved.
Podlutsky is pushing bats as a better animal model for studying human aging. Mice currently are by far the most often used, even though their maximum life span in captivity is just three years and 90 of 100 mice in the wild die within nine months. Even laboratory mice kept in a protected environment, he said, show all the signs of aging at 2 years old. Contrast that with bats, which weigh half what a mouse does and are still hunting successfully day after day at 30 or 40 years of age. “Studying mice [in aging research],” he said, “is like taking swimming lessons from someone who’s never been in the water.”
Sadly, I became aware of the longevity of bats while reading this article about how, perhaps because of pesticides, they (and bees and frogs …) are dying off.