A Team Studying The Yellow-Bellied Marmots Discover The Key To Their Long Lives

Wouldn’t it be nice to be young forever? A lot of people spend so much money getting treatments done just to stay looking young, but scientists have recently found the secret to slowing down the ticking of the aging clock for a species called the yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris).

PHOTO: Pixabay/timtwisted

A new study was published in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal about how the marmot is able to slow down their aging when they hibernate.

The yellow-bellied marmots are large burrowing rodents. They are closely related to squirrels and prairie dogs, but they are more often identified as just oversized squirrels, and they can grow as big as the average housecat. According to the National Park Service, the species are true hibernators; they burrow in the early fall season and will not emerge until the following spring. Daniel Blumstein, co-author of the research, said that when the marmots begin to hibernate, their breathing slows and their temperature drops dramatically, to the point where they would feel like fuzzy, cold rocks.

PHOTO: Pixabay/Avia5

In the article titled ‘Hibernation slows epigenetic ageing in yellow-bellied marmots’, biologists from UCLA discovered that the yellow-bellied marmots are able to virtually stop their aging process during their seven to eight months of hibernation.

The research team is said to be the first group to study the aging of the species in the wild, but their research is part of an already existing 60-year study of the yellow-bellied marmots based at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. According to the article, although the marmots are able to age normally for the first 2 years of their lives, once they reach their age of sexual maturity, the ability to slow down their aging during hibernation kicks in.

PHOTO: Youtube/Nature on PBS

They were able to get their data by studying collected blood samples from 73 yellow-bellied marmots living in Colorado, gathered over time from multiple summer seasons, when the species are active and above ground. They assessed the aging of the species based on epigenetic changes.

“Our results from different statistical approaches reveal that epigenetic aging essentially stalls during hibernation… We found that the epigenetic age of marmots increases during the active season, stops during hibernation, and continues to increase in the next active season,” said Gabriela Pinho, lead author of the article.

The UCLA team said that there may be similar biomedical advantages to inducing hibernation conditions in humans or human cells. Whether it be to preserve organs for transplantation or for long-term space missions, the possibilities are exciting.

Watch how marmots prepare for hibernation in the video below.

Or learn more interesting facts about the species here.

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