Programmed Aging Theory Information Mitteldorf - Adaptive Aging Based on Group Selection


Joshua Mitteldorf has written extensively on adaptive (programmed) theories of aging.


Specific subjects include:


-Conflicts between experimental data and popular non-adaptive aging theories [1, 3, 5, 7, 8]


-An adaptive theory of aging based on group selection:

"Aging has the hallmarks of an evolved adaptation. It is controlled by genes that have been conserved over vast evolutionary distances, and most organisms are able to forestall aging in the most challenging of environments. But fundamental theoretical considerations imply that there can be no direct selection for aging. Senescence reduces individual fitness, and any group benefits are weak and widely dispersed over non-relatives. We offer a resolution to this paradox, suggesting a general mechanism by which senescence might have evolved as an adaptation. The proposed benefit is that senescence protects against infectious epidemics by controlling population density and increasing diversity of the host population. This mechanism is, in fact, already well-accepted in another context: it is the Red Queen Hypothesis for the evolution of sex. We illustrate the hypothesis using a spatially explicit agent-based model in which disease transmission is sensitive to population density as well as homogeneity. We find that individual senescence provides crucial population-level advantages, helping to control both these risk factors. Strong population-level advantages to individual senescence can overcome the within-population disadvantage of senescence. We conclude that frequent local extinctions provide a mechanism by which senescence may be selected as a population-level adaptation in its own right, without assuming pleiotropic benefits to the individual." [2]

-Medical implications of adaptive aging theories: [4]


-An adaptive theory regarding the evolution of menopause[10]



1. Mitteldorf J Female fertility and longevity. Age (Dordr). 2009 Sep 4. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 19731082

2. Mitteldorf J, Pepper J. Senescence as an adaptation to limit the spread of disease. J Theor Biol. 2009 Sep 21;260(2):186-95. Epub 2009 May 28.PMID: 19481552 [PubMed - in process]

3. Mitteldorf J, Pepper JW. How can evolutionary theory accommodate recent empirical results on organismal senescence? J Theory Biosci. 2007 Aug;126(1):3-8. Epub 2007 Mar 6.PMID: 18087751

4. Mitteldorf J. How evolutionary thinking affects people's ideas about aging interventions. Rejuvenation Res. 2006 Summer;9(2):346-50.PMID: 16706667

5. Longo VD, Mitteldorf J, Skulachev VP. Programmed and altruistic ageing. Nat Rev Genet. 2005 Nov;6(11):866-72. Review.PMID: 16304601

6. Mitteldorf J. Can current evolutionary theory explain experimental data on aging? Sci Aging Knowledge Environ. 2001 Dec 19;2001(12):vp9.  PMID: 14602960

7. Mitteldorf J. Can experiments on caloric restriction be reconciled with the disposable soma theory for the evolution of senescence? Evolution. 2001 Sep;55(9):1902-5; discussion 1906.PMID: 11681746

8. Mitteldorf J, Wilson DS. Population viscosity and the evolution of altruism. J Theor Biol. 2000 Jun 21;204(4):481-96.PMID: 10833350

9. Mitteldorf J. Declining fertility. Science. 1998 Nov 20;282(5393):1419. PMID: 9867644

10. Mitteldorf J., Goodnight C. Post-reproductive life span and demographic stability Oikos 2012

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