Competing for high status speeds up the aging of male baboons

The study indicates that high social standing contributes to faster aging of baboons, despite their other advantages

A study published today in The Guardian suggests that fighting other male baboons to achieve high social standing comes with physiological costs that accelerate aging. eLife.

The results suggest that current life conditions may be more important to contribute to premature aging than early life hardship, at least in baboons.

Chemical changes in DNA, also called epigenetic changes, can be used as a kind of “clock” to measure aging. While these epigenetic changes usually correspond to age, they can also be used to detect signs of premature aging.

“Environmental pressures can make the clock faster, so that some individuals appear to be biologically older than their actual age and face a greater risk of developing age-related diseases,” explains co-first author Jordan Anderson, a PhD student in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. Durham, North Carolina, United States. “We have sought to answer the social or early life experiences that accelerate the aging of baboons.”

The team measured aging in 245 wild monkeys from a well-studied population in Kenya using the epigenetic clock and other methods. They found that the epigenetic clock was a good predictor of chronological age in general. But contrary to what they expected, early adversities in life were not a good predictor of accelerated aging in animals.

Instead, they found that the highest scores of males showed signs of accelerated aging. A higher BMI, which is associated with having more lean muscle mass in baboons, has also been associated with accelerated aging, likely due to the physical requirements to maintain a high standing. The team also managed to show that the epigenetic clock speeds up as animals climb the social ladder and slow down as they move down it.

“Our results indicate that achieving a high ranking of male baboons – the best indicator of reproductive success in these animals – imposes costs consistent with the life history strategy of“ Live Fast, Die Young, ”says co-author Rachel Johnston, postdoctoral participant in evolutionary anthropology At Duke University.

Lead author Jenny Tong adds, “While the results reveal how social pressures can affect male aging, we do not see the same effect of rank in female baboons, who give birth in their social rank rather than having to fight for it,” an associate professor in the departments. Evolutionary anthropology and biology at Duke University, and a faculty member at the Duke University Population Research Institute.

“Our results have important implications for research on the social determinants of health in humans and other animals because they show that“ high status ”can mean very different things in different contexts. They also highlight the importance of studying the effects of both early life and current life environments on biological aging. Tung concludes.


This study will be published as part of “Evolutionary Medicine: A Special Edition” of eLife. For more information, visit https: //elifesciences.Deer /Inside the elif /bb34a238 /Special Edition – Call for Papers – in Evolutionary Medicine.

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