Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Refers to the achievement of long life and to the average life span characteristic of the individuals in a population or species under specific environmental constraints. Much evidence suggests that some portion of the variance of life span is inherited. Studies of adoptees, twin studies, and research with other mammals all suggest that complex organisms, including humans, inherit a tendency for a specieswide fixed longevity. There has been recent interest by gerontologists in certain maternally transmitted genes, especially the TERC locus (telomerase RNA component). There apparently are no long-lived human groups, i.e. populations with a notably high proportion of centenarians. Three candidate populations, the Abkhazians and Ossetian people of Russian Georgia, the people of Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador, and the Hunza of Pakistan _ have all been accounted for by age exaggeration, record alteration, or unusual demographic phenomena.

See progeria.

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