Testing the ?free radical theory of aging? hypothesis: physiological differences in long-lived and short-lived colubrid snakes Academic Article uri icon


  • We test the 'free radical theory of aging' using six species of colubrid snakes (numerous, widely distributed, non-venomous snakes of the family Colubridae) that exhibit long (> 15 years) or short (< 10 years) lifespans. Because the 'rate of living theory' predicts metabolic rates to be correlated with rates of aging and oxidative damage results from normal metabolic processes we sought to answer whether physiological parameters and locomotor performance (which is a good predictor of survival in juvenile snakes) mirrored the evolution of lifespans in these colubrid snakes. We measured whole animal metabolic rate (oxygen consumption Vo2), locomotor performance, cellular metabolic rate (mitochondrial oxygen consumption), and oxidative stress potential (hydrogen peroxide production by mitochondria). Longer-lived colubrid snakes have greater locomotor performance and reduced hydrogen peroxide production than short-lived species, while whole animal metabolic rates and mitochondrial efficiency did not differ with lifespan. We present the first measures testing the 'free radical theory of aging' using reptilian species as model organisms. Using reptiles with different lifespans as model organisms should provide greater insight into mechanisms of aging.

publication date

  • June 2007