Sexless starfish live longer

Starfish that divide themselves in order to reproduce, as opposed to mating, tend to live longer.
By Brooks Hays   |   Updated June 25, 2015 at 11:34 AM
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GOTHENBURG, Sweden, June 25 (UPI) -- A life without sex might sound boring, but for starfish, it's the secret to a longer life. A new study finds starfish that reproduce via cloning age less quickly than starfish that opt for the more traditional propagation strategy.

Researchers at Sweden's University of Gothenburg recently studied both Mediterranean and Atlantic starfish (Coscinasterias tenuispina) populations to gauge the pros and cons of asexual and sexual reproduction.

By analyzing the species' telomeres -- repetitive nucleotide sequences located at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with age -- researchers were able to gauge the health and lifespan of different creatures.

Scientists found a strong link between longer telomeres and clonality, suggesting those that divide themselves in order to reproduce, as opposed to mating, tend to live longer.

"According to the researchers, this rejuvenation of the telomeres in connection with the formation of new tissue during cloning is probably one of possibly several explanations behind the particularly good health and long telomeres of clones," researcher Helen Nilsson Skold explained in a press release.

Similar findings have been made in lab studies involving flatworms.

"The strengths of our study are that we have confirmed these results in a completely different animal group, and that our data comes from wild populations," Helen added.

The new research was published in the journal Heredity.

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