Why Do Giant Tortoises Live So Long?

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iStock

Sorry hares, but giant tortoises are still winning the race of life by treating it like a marathon and taking each lap slow and steady. The oldest living giant tortoise known to science (and the oldest animal in the world) is Jonathan, a 184-year-old that lives on St. Helena Island. Unofficially, there have been claims of older tortoises, including one believed to have been 255 when it died in 2006. Researchers have not been able to pin down exactly what keeps them around for so long, but their slow-motion lifestyle may have something to do with it.

Giant tortoises have very slow metabolisms, which means they burn energy at a slower rate than smaller and faster animals. In 1908, physiologist Max Rubner introduced the rate of living theory, which suggested an inverse correlation between metabolism and lifespan (the faster the metabolism, the shorter the life). Scientists have had some issues with the theory over the past century (some argue that metabolism is a “poor measure of energy expenditure”), and it has largely been discredited, but it did spawn the phrase “Live fast, die young,” and it serves as the basis for expanded research on the topic.

The link between metabolism and longevity is still not understood, but some scientists believe that metabolism is linked to the creation of free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells and that increase as more energy is burned by the body. According to this theory, tortoises live longer because their slow metabolisms burn less energy, which means less harm to the cells in their bodies.

Theories on aging alone don’t fully explain how tortoises live much longer than humans, but their reproductive lives and size may hint toward an explanation. Because of their built-in home security system (the massive hard shells) and their geographic isolation (they only live on a few specific islands), giant tortoises have very few predators to worry about. Besides simply not becoming prey, this means that giant tortoises don’t have to rush into reproduction to keep their species alive. The tortoises essentially reserve their biological resources to keep themselves alive—they needn't rely on them to aid procreation while they’re young.

Each theory has its flaws and unanswered questions, but scientists believe that some combination of biological and evolutionary factors is what keeps giant tortoises alive for so long. There is no magical gene that humans can harvest and exploit, but that hasn’t stopped us from looking.

A Nubian Goat Named Lincoln Was Just Sworn in as the Mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont

iStock.com/Evgeniia Khmelnitskaia
iStock.com/Evgeniia Khmelnitskaia

Lincoln the goat may not be housebroken, but she had no problem winning the race for mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont. The new mayor was officially sworn in on Tuesday, March 12, and before signing the oath of office with her hoof print, she marked the occasion by defecating on the town hall floor, the Boston Globe reports.

Prior to getting into politics, Lincoln the droopy-eared Nubian goat lived a simple life. A local family looking for a way to maintain the unruly vegetation on their property had purchased her two years ago when she was 1 year old. At age 3, Lincoln transitioned from munching grass full-time to running for public office.

Though Lincoln's win is impressive, her election didn't involve beating any human candidates. Town Manager Joseph Gunter came up with the idea to hold an election for honorary pet mayor of Fair Haven as way to raise money for a new playground. For a $5 fee, local kids were allowed to nominate the pet of their choice to be town mayor. Lincoln bested more than a dozen candidates, including a gerbil named Crystal and a pacifier-sucking dog named Stella, for the position.

The stunt didn't raise much money—the town came away with just $100 for the playground—but it did earn Fair Haven international attention. In order to go down in history as world's longest-serving animal mayor, Lincoln has to stick around for a while; Stubbs the cat was mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska for 20 years.

[h/t Boston Globe]

The 10 Most Popular Puppy Names of 2019

iStock.com/Lakshmi3
iStock.com/Lakshmi3

If you brought home a new dog or puppy recently and named it Luna, you’re far from the only one. The name, which means moon in Latin, is the most popular puppy name for 2019.

This analysis of cute canine monikers comes from Trupanion, a provider of medical insurance for pets. The company looked at its database of 500,000 dogs and crunched the numbers to identify the names that are currently having a moment. (Although some of the names that cracked the top 10 list, like Daisy and Max, have been around for quite some time.)

Interestingly, Luna wasn’t always popular. As Trupanion points out, “Looking back 10 years, Luna was barely a blip on the name game chart … not even cracking the list of top 20 names.” Nor did it appear on ​Banfield Pet Hospital's list of the 10 most popular dog names of 2018.

Often, there's some overlap between popular pet names and baby names. Luna was the 31st most popular baby name for girls in 2018. This is perhaps linked to the popularity of the Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood, as well as the publicity the name has received in recent years from celebrities like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen and Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, as both couples named their daughters Luna.

Second on the list of popular puppy names is Bella (its longer form, Isabella, was the fifth most popular baby name for girls last year). Check out the top 10 list below to see if your pooch’s name is trending right now.

1. Luna
2. Bella
3. Charlie
4. Bailey
5. Lucy
6. Cooper
7. Max
8. Daisy
9. Bear
10. Oliver

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