'Human fish' salamander breaks lifespan record

      A small cave salamander, dubbed the human fish because of its human-like skin tone, has broken the world's record for longest-lived amphibian, found a study. Also called olm and Proteus, the salamander, which can live to over 100, is endangered, but reaches such advanced ages in zoos and protected environments. Future studies on this amphibian might shed light on what promotes longevity in the animal kingdom. "Among amphibians the human fish is clearly the most long-lived species," Discovery News quoted lead author Yann Voituron as saying. Voituron, a professor at Claude Bernard Lyon University, and his team calculated growth rates, generation times and the lifespan of olms living in a cave at Moulis, Saint-Girons, France. Since the 1950s, conservationists have established a breeding program there for the threatened salamanders. In addition to determining the lifespan of the cave salamanders, the researchers found that this species becomes sexually mature at around age 16 and lays, on average, 35 eggs every 12.5 years. "What promotes its longevity is probably very low activity, low reproduction, no environmental stress and its peculiar physiology," said Voituron. Scientists have been interested in the lifespan of this salamander for some time, since zookeepers started to notice that olms in exhibits would live to amazingly advanced ages, usually over 70 years. Analysis of this, and other elderly animals, might shed light on what promotes longevity in general. The olm seems to fit a pattern, where long lives are dependent upon low-stress, stable environments without predators. The study has been published in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters.

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