Less Sex, More Vegetables – The Secret To Healthier Life?

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A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel studied literature on 1,014 species of reptiles, including lizards and snakes.

The parameters studied were body size, earliest age of the first reproduction, temperature, reproductive modes, litter or clutch size and frequency, geographic distribution and eating habits.

So, among other factors, early sexual maturation and a higher frequency of laying eggs or giving birth were associated with shortened life, according to professor Shai Meiri from TAU’s faculty of life sciences.

They concluded that reduced reproductive rates and a plant-rich diet increase the lifespan of reptiles.

“Reproduction comes at the price of great stress to the mother. She experiences physiological stress, is unable to forage efficiently, and is more vulnerable to her surroundings. This reflects evolutionary logic. We found that reptiles that were sexually mature early on were less likely to make it to old age. Live fast and die young, they say – but live slow, live long is what we find.”

The team also discovered that herbivores, lizards on a plant-rich diet, lived longer than carnivores that ate mostly insects.

Ingestion of a protein-rich diet was linked to fast growth, intense reproduction and a shortened lifespan. Inon Scharf from department of zoology at TAU said we believed that diet had something to do with lifespan of herbivores.

“Herbivorous reptiles were thought to consume nutritionally poorer food so they reached maturity later – and therefore lived longer.”

The researchers also found that reptiles in colder regions lived longer due to two factors: hibernation and slower movement due to a seasonal drop in metabolic rate.

The research was published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

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