Evol Ecol Res 4: 1065-1074 (2002)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Environment and longevity: emergence without interaction, multiple steady states and stochastic clocks

Marc Mangel*

Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Jack Baskin School of Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA

e-mail: msmangel@ams.ucsc.edu


Because they are non-linear, biological systems are often characterized by emergent properties, multiple steady states, and thresholds. These are now well understood and appreciated in ecology; they are also important components for understanding life span, at both the level of the population and the level of the individual, and allow novel insights into the biology of ageing and longevity. The deceleration of mortality rate at later ages can be understood as an emergent property, in the sense of a macroscopic phenomenon (population mortality rate) arising (in this case, without interaction) from different microscopic ones (individual mortality). Models of individual ageing based on the autocatalysis and inhibition of replicating units lead to multiple stable steady states separated by thresholds. These systems respond to environmental challenges and this response leads to individual ontogeny of ageing; the environment thus sets a stochastic clock. Recognition of the implicit non-linearity of biological systems will be essential for advances in the theoretical formulation of life span and ageing.

Keywords: ageing, free radicals, life span, longevity, oxidative damage.

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