Biology Question #717

Unknown, a n/a from the Internet asks on September 7, 2001,

Are there living beings which do not die?

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The answer

Joao Pedro de Magalhaes answered on March 22, 2002

The main cause of death amongst complex animals are, with few exceptions, diseases. This means that all animals eventually die, yet it does not mean they age.

Many species avoid aging. Organisms featuring vegetative reproduction are generally classified as non-aging species. Vegetative reproduction is, for example, when you cut a graft from a tree and grow a new tree from it or cut a worm in half and both segments develop into two separate individuals. Examples include ciliates, fungus, plants (tulips, banana trees, etc.), and animals (anemones, sponges, corals, certain worms, etc.). Amongst higher animals you can find species that appear not to age such as turtles, lobsters, rockfishes, bullfrogs, and perhaps even some birds. As you can imagine, it's difficult to test whether these species show signs of aging after many centuries. As far as I know, the species cited above show no signs of aging for decades and might indeed escape aging. (It obviously does not mean they're immortal as they're still susceptible to predation, accidents, and diseases.) Finally, and answering your first question, some trees placed in ideal conditions might also escape aging.

I have a website with a wide range of examples on non-aging species.

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