As far as I know there is no absolute time measurement (one that would measure time in a non-environment-dependent fashion) in any life form. Only such time measurements exist, which are dependent upon cyclic changes like the strength of the sunlight, heat, amount of water, etc. (In case this assumption of mine is false, than please answer it in mind of life forms which in deed have only relative)

Theoretically, if we could change everything a given life form is dependent upon, could we increase it's entire lifespan?

For example if we were to put a plant inside a manually controllable environment and slow down the day/night cycle to it's third, maybe even decrease air pressure and the strength of gravity(thus eliminating any problem that might arise from the actual transport of water and the solution of organic matters produced in photosynthesizing cells), change (even though I'm not sure if this could be physically possible at all, but my whole question is theoretical, thus it should not cause a problem) the adhesion/cohesion as well (so the speed of transports in the cells would change accordingly) and change other, (for me) unthinkable aspects that, for example, regulates the time between cell divisions, would it live for longer?

Even if we could not change every aspect that regulates a given life form's working, changing many could we (although this time not linearly) increase it's actual lifespan?


closed as too broad by fileunderwater, WYSIWYG, rg255, AliceD, MattDMo Jun 18 '15 at 14:47

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I find this too broad, speculative and opinion-based to be suitable for the SE format. You mention a huge number of processes, which will also interact with eachother. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 18 '15 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ I work in a fly lab, flies kept at 18 degress live longer than those at 25 degrees... though I agree with fileunderwater that this is too broad $\endgroup$ – rg255 Jun 18 '15 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ I voted to close this question. I think it holds great potential, it just needs some tinkering and especially a narrowing down of the variables as well as species. I think many non-complex life forms adapt to environmental factors by going into some kind of low-metabolic state- a bacterial spore for example. This is not what you are after. Perhaps focus on humans and specify some parameters of interest. As of now it only generates answers that are commented upon with "yes, but no... I want to know this..." Such comments on answers identify it as a poorly defined question. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jun 18 '15 at 12:16

Short answer: Changing something (instead of everything) yes.

There are several studies on the impact of environmental factors on life span. Of course it depends from organism to organism. Diet restriction for example has been shown to extend life span of worms and mice. Temperature is also working well, at least with microorganisms, the metabolism of E.coli for example (that usually grows at 37 Celsius) can be greatly slowed down at lower temperatures. Also, there are enzymes involved in the "ageing pathway" some of these enzymes can be promoted or repressed by small molecules, like resveratrol does, and as result you get some increment in life span. The opposite is also true, you can accelerate ageing with external factors. For plants works as well, changing the environment you can definitely have an effect on the life span and the overall metabolism rate, indeed tricking the light cycle is a very well known method to induce flowering for example.

Here some interesting links if you wanna dig more into this topic. http://web.mit.edu/biology/guarente/ http://genetics.med.harvard.edu/sinclair/ http://www.ted.com/talks/cynthia_kenyon_experiments_that_hint_of_longer_lives?language=en http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/58/12/3099.full

  • $\begingroup$ But these are only defensive reactions to the environment. What I would like to know is how would changing many (as everything is impossible) aspects modify the life span of our average life form. $\endgroup$ – FloriOn Jun 18 '15 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ I don't get what do you mean for "defensive reactions"... The point is that organisms respond to external stimuli and that there is data pointing out that also life span can be influenced by such a stimuli. Isn't that you were looking for? I cannot really answer to "how would changing many (as everything is impossible) aspects modify the life span of our average life form" because is too vague, it depends from the organism and many other factors so there is no simple protocol for that. Have you check the links I posted? The last one is about slowing down plants growth with light. $\endgroup$ – alec_djinn Jun 18 '15 at 9:08

First, I find this too broad, speculative and opinion-based to be suitable for the SE format. You mention a huge number of processes, which will also interact with eachother.

However, taking a general view, life span and generation time can definitely be increased. Changes in temperature and nutrition will often change the metabolic rates and growth rate of organisms, but the actual effect will depend on which organism you are looking at. For instance, the length of the larval stage of many longhorn beetles can increase by several years in colder climates or site conditions, under shorter growing seasons and/or poor wood substrates, compared to ideal conditions or warmer microclimates. The mechanism here is often lower activity levels or lower nutrient contents, leading to lower growth rates, which means that it will take more time before the larvae reaches maturity. This means that individuals of the same species (also the same genotype) may have a life span of 6 years in one location and 2 ys in another location. This is just a single example, and lots of similar processes can also be found in other organism groups, especially considering the large number of factors that you mention in your question.


  • Bilý, S. & Mehl, O. 1989. Longhorn Beetles (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Ent. Scand. Vol. 22: 47–48.

  • Cherepanov, A.I. 1990. Cerambycidae of Northern Asia. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill Publishing Company.

  • $\begingroup$ Quite some experiments like this have been done with C.elegans, also. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 18 '15 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ That's not actually the same thing I'm interested in. In this case, the given specie is genetically coded to work like that. I would like to know whether this thing works on species which are not supposed to live longer than they do now. $\endgroup$ – FloriOn Jun 18 '15 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ @FloriOn And how are you actually going to determine that? You cannot separate the genetical background of a species and its reaction norms from the equation. If you do, this is pure science fiction and answers will only be based on speculations. Also, how do you determine how long a species is "supposed to live", and under what conditions? $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 18 '15 at 9:08

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