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Is there any relationship between heartbeat rate and life span of an animal?

Do they belong to a cause-and-effect relationship or are they both caused by some phenomenons or a common cause?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

Interestingly there is a inverse negative correlation between heart rate and life span, meaning the faster your heart rate is, the shorter is your lifespan. See this figure (from the paper 2 cited below):

enter image description here

When the authors plotted the approximately total heartbeats vs. the lifespan, the amount of total heartbeats was in a pretty narrow corridor:

enter image description here

So it seems that at least the hearts in mammals have a maximum number of strokes they could do. The obvious question what causes this phenomenon is not really answered. Since the metabolism of small animals is (compared to their weight) higher and also their oxygen consumption is higher because of that, it is hypothesized that this causes more reactive oxygen species and related damage which subsequently leads to an earlier death.

See the references for more details:

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In the second plot, getting a "narrow corridor" on a log scale is hardly a surprise. Also, I'm pretty sure that either or both plots must have some of the species labels mixed up (and they both consistently misspell "hamster"). Of course, neither of those issues necessarily invalidate the general claim that short-lived species tend to have faster heart rates (which, given that both traits correlate with body size, is hardly surprising either), but those are the kind of mistakes that proper peer review and competent editors ought to catch. Honestly, I expected more from an Elsevier journal. – Ilmari Karonen Aug 14 '14 at 16:13
So they are both effects of a faster / slower rate of oxygen intake, am I correct? – Greek Fellows Aug 14 '14 at 22:43
I wonder if this is more of secondary correlation with size? In other words both life expectancy and heart rate correlate with animal size. The human influence can't be ignored for the domestic animals on the chart (dog in particular). – Atl LED Aug 15 '14 at 3:40
@AtlLED Thats the other thing which can be correlated, see here. – Chris Aug 15 '14 at 8:33

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