Human Aging Influenced by Dinosaur Domination | Longevity Bottleneck Hypothesis | Predatory Dinosaurs and Mammalian Aging | Did Dinosaurs Shape Today’s Human Aging?
We all know what aging is about—it’s a biological process with undesirable health consequences. But have you ever wondered why various species on this planet do not age in a similar manner? Have you ever questioned why mammals age faster than most reptiles and other vertebrates? Well, a recent speculation published in the journal “BioEssays” may provide some meaningful answers. According to the author, dinosaurs seem to be largely responsible for the aging process in all mammals, including humans. Now, how is that possible?
Well, this intelligent speculation, also referred to as the “longevity bottleneck hypothesis,” is based on the fact that most mammals who coexisted with dinosaurs faced constant evolutionary pressure. They dealt with the ongoing threat of being preyed upon by hungry dinosaurs. This constant threat exerted so much pressure on various mammalian species that their genetic programs switched gears, thus prioritizing rapid reproduction over everything else. This prioritization eventually led to the loss or inactivation of genes and biological pathways associated with a long life. In other words, dinosaurs could indeed be the reason why humans undergo aging today. On the other hand, non-mammals are the species that age the slowest. In fact, there have been reports of amphibians, reptiles, and fishes showing negligible aging or senescence.
Of course, the longevity bottleneck hypothesis has its own set of limitations. For instance, it could result from scientists characterizing mammals more than other taxa. However, setting aside this potential bias, the hypothesis appears intelligent and profound. Moreover, the study is not based on a random hypothesis, considering the solid molecular evidence it provides. For instance, scientific evidence clearly indicates that the photolyase DNA protection system was lost in the eutherian mammalian lineage during the time of the dinosaurs. So, what exactly could this system have done if it were present in our biological systems today? Well, it could have played a crucial role in protecting organisms from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation is known to induce DNA damage by creating structures called pyrimidine dimers. The photolyase DNA protection system targets and repairs the pyrimidine dimers induced by UV radiation. Unfortunately, the human species does not possess the photolyase DNA protection system, thus making it susceptible to various UV-radiation-induced cancers.
The published study further states that following the extinction of dinosaurs and the rise of mammals, the latter diversified to occupy numerous ecological niches, enabling them to increase in size. Fossils and phylogenetic evidence collected by scientists strongly support this argument. In line with the hypothesis, the diversification of mammals, more than 60 million years after the extinction of dinosaurs, resulted in a huge variety of species, many of which lead long and relatively healthy lives. For instance, did you know that elephants rarely get cancer? Were you also aware of the fact that bowhead whales enjoy a relatively cancer-free life of 200+ years? In fact, according to a post published by the journal “Science,” bowhead whales show hardly any signs of the age-related ailments that plague other animals, including humans. Although further studies seem warranted, the hypothesis nevertheless makes a remarkable contribution to evolutionary genomics.
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1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bies.202300098 (https://doi.org/10.1002/bies.202300098)
4. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adg8284 (https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.adg8284)
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