Parrots are known for their longevity, with some species living as long as 80 years. But why do parrots live so long? There are a number of factors that contribute to why a parrot can live so much longer than say, a similar-sized rodent or warm-blooded mamal.
Why do parrots live so long?
TL;DR for skimmers
Parrots live long because they were created/evolved to do so. Between how fast their heartbeats to their staple diet of seeds, and the shorter duration of DNA telomere degradation, coupled with their massive intelligence, Parrots were simply created to be this way, By God or nature, either way, they are specifically designed to be long-lived.
The way these birds age has been of particular interest to the scientific community. By unlocking the mechanisms behind the parrot’s long life span, we soon hope to do the same for ourselves. But what kind of mechanisms are involved?
First, we need to understand that not all of these mechanisms are transferable. One of the largest advantages parrots have going for them is the ability to fly. This automatically increases their lifespan by orders of magnitude because they are able to escape most predators or avoid them altogether.
Aside from flying, they are also very intelligent. It’s a fact that intelligent animals tend to live longer because they make fewer mistakes and learn from their experiences.
Coupled with flying, this makes parrots the top of the top by default. But what about the genetics behind it?
Parrots tend to have a higher metabolism than other warm-blooded animals of similar size. Their bodies operate at higher temperatures, which in turn increase their metabolism which aids in the digestion of hard-to-digest seeds.
In most cases, a faster metabolism means a faster death. Burning both ends of the candle as it were. But in the case of parrots, they’ve somehow disabled this degradation mechanism of their telomeres in a way that allows their DNA to fall apart less rapidly.
This is the part that tends to interest scientists the most because of what it could mean for our human lifespan.
The process of telomere shortening is linked to the aging process in many organisms including humans. The study of why parrots live so long has proven that their method for slowing down this degradation can have significant implications on why we age and how our lives could be extended through research into what these birds are doing differently than other warm-blooded mammals.
But I digress.
Whatever they did, the end process is a better internal system to cope with oxidative stress which in turn stops the rapid shortening of telomeres. That’s the biggest driving factor to the parrot’s life span.
Everything else, including diet, habitat, predation, and wild or captive living are just extra variables tacked on. Usually at the detriment to the bird’s overall life expectancy.
Even the most advanced slow aging parrot can become a victim of a bad diet, though. And diet is definitely one of the driving factors to this evolution. Somewhere along the line, they figured out a better way to digest hard-to-digest foods, such as seeds and nuts.
This in turn gave us the strange genetic internal system which causes slower aging even with rapid metabolism.
Then why do parrots live so long question is a combination of luck and evolution, but the biological component is the most important piece to understanding why they are such an interesting animal in terms of longevity.