This Tiny, Short-Lived Fish Could Help Scientists Research Longevity
by Owen James Burke
Above: A vibrant, newly hatched turquoise killifish (top) and an elderly, tattered three-month member of the same species. Image: Itamar Harel
Reaching old age at just three months, the turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) is one of the shortest-lived vertebrates in the world. For scientists who study aging, it may hold answers — or illuminate further questions — concerning longevity.
The fish, endemic to East Africa between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, hatches in temporary ponds which fill up during rain season. Within the three months or so that these oversized puddles hold water, killifish feed, mate, deposit fertilized eggs into the soil, and die as soon as the waters dry up. The eggs remain in the soil where they enter diapause, lying dormant for at least a year (until the next season), if not longer, before they’ll hatch.
A Stanford University laboratory has spent years researching and mapping out the genome sequence of the fish, which may prove to be the ideal species for testing anti-aging drugs.