The long lives of primates and the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis

Fernando Colchero, José Manuel Aburto, Elizabeth A. Archie, Christophe Boesch, Thomas Breuer, Fernando A. Campos, Anthony Collins, Dalia A. Conde, Marina Cords, Catherine Crockford, Melissa Emery Thompson, Linda M. Fedigan, Claudia Fichtel, Milou Groenenberg, Catherine Hobaiter, Peter M. Kappeler, Richard R. Lawler, Rebecca J. Lewis, Zarin P. Machanda, Marie L. ManguetteMartin N. Muller, Craig Packer, Richard J. Parnell, Susan Perry, Anne E. Pusey, Martha M. Robbins, Robert M. Seyfarth, Joan B. Silk, Johanna Staerk, Tara S. Stoinski, Emma J. Stokes, Karen B. Strier, Shirley C. Strum, Jenny Tung, Francisco Villavicencio, Roman M. Wittig, Richard W. Wrangham, Klaus Zuberbühler, James W. Vaupel, Susan C. Alberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Is it possible to slow the rate of ageing, or do biological constraints limit its plasticity? We test the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis, which posits that the rate of ageing is relatively fixed within species, with a collection of 39 human and nonhuman primate datasets across seven genera. We first recapitulate, in nonhuman primates, the highly regular relationship between life expectancy and lifespan equality seen in humans. We next demonstrate that variation in the rate of ageing within genera is orders of magnitude smaller than variation in pre-adult and age-independent mortality. Finally, we demonstrate that changes in the rate of ageing, but not other mortality parameters, produce striking, species-atypical changes in mortality patterns. Our results support the invariant rate of ageing hypothesis, implying biological constraints on how much the human rate of ageing can be slowed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3666
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2021


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