EXETER, England, July 8 (UPI) -- Violence is not the answer -- to a longer life, anyway. A new study suggests badgers that regularly brawl as youngsters don't last long in their golden years.
The phenomenon is the result of circumstance, not necessarily disposition. Badgers that live in proximity to other badgers are more likely to find themselves in a kerfuffle than those that live among fewer foes.
"The study shows that when male badgers don't have to fight for a mate, they can prioritise their health and wellbeing and as a result they age more slowly," study author Christopher Beirne, a researcher at the University of Exeter's Center for Ecology and Conservation, explained in a press release. "However, when badgers fight a lot in their youth, they really pay for it by ageing rapidly in later life."
Beirne and his colleagues used diminishing body mass as the mark of aging. An accelerated body mass decline was observed among older badgers that, when younger, found themselves faced with greater competition for mating opportunities.
"The findings are particularly interesting because males age faster than females in many species, including our own, but we don't really understand why," co-author Andrew Young said. "Our findings suggest that male badgers age faster than females because of the male-male competition that they experience during their lifetimes; males that experience strong competition age more quickly than females, while males that experience little competition do not."
The new findings only partially explain males' accelerated aging, as researchers still aren't sure of the physiological mechanisms responsible for the phenomenon and how they relate to sexual competition.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.