In Methuselah’s Zoo by Steven Austad, stories of long-lived animal species and what they might teach us about human health and longevity
Opossums in the wild don’t make it to the age of three; our pet cats can live for a decade and a half; cicadas live for seventeen years (spending most of them underground). Whales, however, can live for two centuries and tubeworms for several millennia.
Meanwhile, human life expectancy tops out around the mid-eighties, with some outliers living past 100 or even 110. Is there anything humans can learn from the exceptional longevity of some animals in the wild? In Methuselah’s Zoo: What Nature Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Healthier Lives Steven Austad tells the stories of some extraordinary animals, considering why, for example, animal species that fly live longer than earthbound species and why animals found in the ocean live longest of all.
Austad—the leading authority on longevity in animals—argues that the best way we will learn from these long-lived animals is by studying them in the wild. Accordingly, he proceeds habitat by habitat, examining animals that spend most of their lives in the air, comparing insects, birds, and bats; animals that live on, and under, the ground—from mole rats to elephants; and animals that live in the sea, including quahogs, carp, and dolphins.
Humans have dramatically increased their lifespan with only a limited increase in healthspan; we’re more and more prone to diseases as we grow older. By contrast, these species have successfully avoided both environmental hazards and the depredations of aging. Can we be more like them?
“A thrilling, hilarious and uplifting adventure into the astounding life of animals, debunking aging myths and revealing how the study of extraordinary animals can enable us to age more slowly,” said Emma Teeling, University of College Dublin. “Brilliantly insightful and wonderfully hopeful.”
Methuselah’s Zoo in the media:
- An interview with the author appeared in Psychology Today, as Austad discusses aging and longevity.
What Wild Long-Lived Animals Tell Us About Human Longevity
- An excerpt from the book appeared in Atlantic on the topic of bivalves (otherwise known as clams).
If a Clam Can Live to 500, Why Can’t We?
- Methuselah’s Zoo is included as a “don’t miss” read in a recent New Scientist round-up.
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- Salon ran an excerpt from Methuselah’s Zoo, with Austad remarking that “evolution is cleverer than you.”
Animals could hide the key to human super-longevity. Here’s why.
- Science reviewed the book, writing that Austad takes a “refreshing” view on aging.
- Methuselah’s Zoo is a good pick for “aspiring scientists and health care advocates,” writes Library Journal.
Methuselah’s Zoo: What Nature Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Healthier Lives
- “Methuselah’s Zoo is not only fun to read—it is the best book written on the lives and lifespans of our long-lived relatives, teachers of what’s possible for our own species and for our individual lives.”
—David Sinclair, Harvard Medical School; author of New York Times bestseller Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To