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Environomics = environmental genomics.

The Environomics Future Science Platform at CSIRO is using genomics, bioinformatics and nanotechnologies, to reinvent how we measure and monitor ecosystem health, change and threats, and find new resources in nature.

The challenge

Maximum lifespan is an important factor in wildlife management. It is the predicted time a species is expected to live from birth. Scientists use a species' maximum lifespan as a critical input for population modelling to calculate likelihood of extinction, spread of invasive species, sustainable harvests of fish and more.

Flatback sea turtle (Natator depressus) nesting. ©  Commonwealth of Australia ( GBRMPA)

But estimating lifespan is difficult for most wild species, particularly for fish and for long-lived species of marine mammals that migrate vast distances throughout the world's oceans.

What we're doing

Our method can predict the lifespan of a species if we know the DNA sequence of its genome. Our technique uses gene promoter CpG density at 42 genes and was validated using known lifespans of vertebrate animal species.

Using our method, we found the maximum lifespan of the Bowhead whale is 268 years, 57 years longer than people thought. We discovered that extinct woolly mammoths lived for 60 years and Neanderthals for 37.8 years, similar to modern humans living around the same time.

Our predictions for marine turtle species range from 50.4 years for the Flatback Turtle (Natator depressus) to 90.4 years for the Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

Benefits for Australia

Lifespan predictions are vital for managing wild populations and predicting their likelihood of extinction.

Fisheries and conservation managers have long relied on observing how long animals live in the wild or using a captive animal's oldest recorded age as the species maximum lifespan. But the results may not be sufficiently accurate to help manage wild populations.

Our method can help provide robust data for population modelling.

The genes we identified are also likely to be good targets for studying ageing, which is of huge biomedical and ecological significance.

Get involved

Our method bypasses the need to study vertebrate species over their lifetimes in order to calculate their lifespans.

Our lifespan predictions have applications in a broad variety wildlife management, including better understanding lifecycles and population viability. Talk to us about the wildlife management challenges you face.

Thanks to our partners at: The University of Western Australia, Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions - Northwest Shelf Marine Turtle Program, and Bioplatforms Australia.

Contact us

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