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Science. 1994 Feb 4;263(5147):668-71.

Mortality rates in a genetically heterogeneous population of Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Institute of Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309.


Age-specific mortality rates in isogenic populations of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans increase exponentially throughout life. In genetically heterogeneous populations, age-specific mortality increases exponentially until about 17 days and then remains constant until the last death occurs at about 60 days. This period of constant age-specific mortality results from genetic heterogeneity. Subpopulations differ in mean life-span, but they all exhibit near exponential, albeit different, rates of increase in age-specific mortality. Thus, much of the observed heterogeneity in mortality rates later in life could result from genetic heterogeneity and not from an inherent effect of aging.

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