The range of lifespan in animals and deep sea creatures alike tend to vary - substantially. Look no further than the Rockfish: a rare fish species with the ability to live up to 200 years. Recently, researchers set off to better understand the remarkable marvel, something that might help provide answers to our own age-defying curiosities...
It all started when researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, decided to get some answers for themselves. What was the genetic makeup of creatures with such longevity? Sure enough, after studying 88 species of Pacific Ocean Rockfish, they were well on their way to understanding exactly that.
Peter Sudmant, along with his UCB colleagues, began a genomic analysis on the deep sea creatures - whose lifespans range from 11 to 200 years. They analyzed characteristics such as body mass, their surrounding environment, a well as other age-affecting factors. And what they found surprised them.
"We found genes associated with many different pathways — genes involved in DNA repair, metabolism and immune response," revealed Sudmant. "These genes, which we think play an immunosuppressive role, have higher ‘copy number’ [meaning some have been duplicated] in ultra-long-lived species."
In other words? Researchers were looking at a very likely case of convergent evolution. While the Rockfish boast several unique traits, they actually didn't inherit them from their ancestor. Instead? They likely developed the mutation on their own, as they continued to adapt to their surrounding environment.
But while the team's finding, no doubt, has filled in major blanks, there's still lots to be learned here. "There is much we still don’t know about how this regulates life span though, to be honest," Sudmant confessed during the study, published in the journal Science. That being said, understanding our friends in the wildlife offers a great change at increasing human health - and consequentially, life. "This highlights a specific set of genes and pathways that might be important to follow up in humans." Stay tuned, there's clearly lots more to be unearthed here.