If someone has asked me the same question a few weeks ago, I would have probably scoffed at them for I knew, and I know that everyone else knew, that a turtle could live for several years (even up to 100 years and more).
Nevertheless, the question intrigued me and I started searching the internet for possible answers. And lo behold! What do I get? Several scientific articles that state that birds can actually live longer than turtles! Quite a revelation, indeed!
So what exactly makes these winged creatures outlive one of the oldest reptiles on the planet? Here are some possible explanations.
Even though the turtle is placed alongside other members of the reptile clan, including snakes and lizards, their genetic traits bear more resemblance to birds and crocodiles. Scientific studies have revealed that even though the fossil studies of these turtles make them similar to other shelled creatures like lizards and snakes that belong to the “leipdosaurs” group, their genetic traits resemble those of birds which belong to the “archosaurs” group.
We all know that genetics plays a very important role in ascertaining the life span or longevity of an animal. Since birds and turtles share similar genetic traits, there are strong chances for birds to live as long as turtles or maybe even longer.
Earlier studies on longevity used to relate body mass and size with the life span of an animal. Accordingly, these studies established that the larger the animal, the longer it would live. Recent studies however, have quashed this theory based on facts that indicate that smaller animals like birds and rats can live longer than their much larger counterparts like elephants.
One theory suggests that the rate of growth of an animal can affect its life span or longevity. Studies on the same have noted that animals that grew fast enjoyed a lower life span than animals that had a slow growth rate. And since birds belong to the “archosaurs” group which also housed the dinosaurs (known for their extremely slow growth rates), there are strong chances for the birds to have inherited these traits from their ancestors (noted for their dinosaurian growth rates).
Reduced Resting Metabolic Rate
Several studies have linked the possibility of a longer life span with a reduced body metabolism. With the body using lesser energy for its day-to-day activities, the reduced metabolic rate can increase longevity by at least 20 percent.
Tropical birds usually have sedentary body metabolism. Birds can also reduce their body metabolism drastically to imitate the state of hibernation many animals opt for during winters. The slow metabolic rate along with a birds’ ability to reduce it further can therefore, increase its longevity and make it longer than a turtle for sure!