Ecology

Secrets of Long Life

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Science  31 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6136, pp. 1016
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6136.1016-a
CREDIT: © XAVIER FONT/AGE FOTOSTOCK

The accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) causing oxidative stress is well known as one of the factors associated with senescence, particularly in animals. Oxidative stress has also been shown to be associated with senescence in plant organs (leaves and flowers). However, much less is known about its potential for affecting the senescence of whole plants, especially longer-lived perennials. To address this gap, Morales et al. studied photo-oxidative stress markers in an exceptionally long-lived herbaceous species, Borderia pyrenaica, which inhabits scree slopes in the Pyrenees and reaches ages of more than three centuries. The markers of oxidative stress were measured in both male and female plants over an age range of 1 to 245 years. None of the markers showed any signs of deterioration in older plants and were even enhanced in some aged female plants. Though it is possible that intrinsic physiological stress mechanisms exert their effects at even greater ages beyond those addressed in this study, mortality in this species—and perhaps in other small, long-lived perennials—may ultimately depend more on extrinsic factors such as pathogens, physical disturbances, and climatic extremes.

J. Ecol. 101, 555 (2013).

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