I read a review-like article about the hypothesis of Caleb E. Finch in a science magazine. The article of interest engages with the idea of Finch

"[arguing] that immune functions and nutrition have been of major importance in the evolution of aging and longevity."

According to this, humans started to regularly consume meat. Meat itself, carrion or injuries during hunting have chances of getting infected and thereby causing death to humans. A strong defensive system against infections lets you survive and its coming into existence may be accompanied by an elongation of our lifespan.
I find myself now asking two questions:
(1) Because the whole article is only about the primate branch, I wonder, whether there are other omnivores that drifted apart concerning their eating habits and if now there is a more carnivorous, longer-living genus?
(2) Do carnivores, in general, have a long lifespan (or is their lifespan highly dependent on a healthy predator–prey equation)? I tried googling, but could not find a relevant scientific resource on this topic.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A major flaw is chimps also eat meat, often other primates, they even hunt for it. This will put even more stress on the immune system than what we had. The invention of cooking is a more likely suspect, that basically doubled our calorie intake. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 27 '18 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Also keep in mind chimps can live for 50 years, which is not much longer than us prior to the invention of medical technology. This sounds like an answer to a question nobody asked. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 27 '18 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ welcome to Stack Exchange. Maybe for your question it will be useful to search scholar.google.com That engine focuses on scientific literature $\endgroup$ Nov 27 '18 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ The title of your question is a statement. I have converted it into a question, although I doubt whether it can be answered here or anywhere else. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Nov 27 '18 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ You are going to find too many confounding factors to get ans answer about carnivore lifespan, there are plenty of predatory carnivores that evolved from omnivores but in most cases one or the other side of the split is extinct. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 28 '18 at 16:20

I don't think that the theory is very reasonable, because animals drink from stagnant ponds (i.e. savanna wells , forest puddles) and have lots of vectors of infection other than rotten meat: cuts and grazes, tract infections, parasites like mosquitoes and nematodes.

The olfactory sense is also very sharp in many carnivores and they can gage the decomposition state of meats. Even humans have a very strong sense of the age of meat using smell, although I can't find research on it.

The fun thing is to see the age of other animals, i.e. birds and bears. The oldest zoo birds:

Flamingoes, seagulls, vultures, 50-70 parrots 90-120 years.

the oldest panda: 37 the oldest grizzly and polar bear: 40 and 42

Oldest reptiles: lizards crocodiles and tortoises: 50-100 years giant tortoise: 150-250 years.

Other herbivores with slow senescence: donkey 60, bison 50, gorilla 60...

research papers don't include any evidence to correlate carnivory and lifespan. It's mostly body mass and ecology, i.e. predation rate.

Carnivores have must stronger stomach acid also which mitigates some of the risk.


Study by Loma Linda showed that 1) a very low meat intake was associated with a significant decrease in risk of death in 4 studies, a nonsignificant decrease in risk of death in the fifth study, and virtually no association in the sixth study; 2) 2 of the studies in which a low meat intake significantly decreased mortality risk also indicated that a longer duration (>/= 2 decades) of adherence to this diet contributed to a significant decrease in mortality risk and a significant 3.6-y (95% CI: 1.4, 5.8 y) increase in life expectancy; and 3) the protective effect of a very low meat intake seems to attenuate after the ninth decade. Some of the variation in the survival advantage in vegetarians may have been due to marked differences between studies in adjustment for confounders, the definition of vegetarian, measurement error, age distribution, the healthy volunteer effect, and intake of specific plant foods by the vegetarians.

CONCLUSION: Current prospective cohort data from adults in North America and Europe raise the possibility that a lifestyle pattern that includes a very low meat intake is associated with greater longevity.

This study can be read at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12936945.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ That study has way to many flaws to be useful, it does not differentiate low meat intake and no meat intake, and only compares a dichotomy, so someone who eats nothing but meat and someone who eats meat 1/week are classified together. secondly there is no linkage to the immune system shown nor does it answer any of the OP's questions. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 28 '18 at 16:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think this is irrelevant, because (if I understood correctly) the OP is asking about species' lifespans, not the lifespan of individuals within a species. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 29 '18 at 18:52

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