“One Standard Lifespan”—Except for Man
“SMALL MAMMALS tick fast, burn rapidly, and live for a short time; large ones live long at a stately pace,” says Harvard professor Jay Gould. “Their lifetimes are scaled to their life’s pace, and all endure for approximately the same amount of biological time.”
Gould’s observations were based on studies of mammals ranging in size from mouse to elephant. When the heartbeat and breath rate of mammals of increasing size were charted against their body weight, it was found that both slow down at the same pace. Also, their life span was found to increase as size increased.
During their lives, all mammals, large and small, were found to breathe about 200 million times, and their hearts beat about 800 million times. According to the article “One Standard Lifespan” in Britain’s “New Scientist” magazine, this means that, “measured by the [pace] of their own hearts or the rhythm of their own breathing, all mammals live about the same [biological] time.”
To illustrate: Shrews are among the smallest of mammals, yet their rate of living is among the fastest. Jittering about, they consume about three times their body weight of food daily. And their average life span is only about one year. On the other hand, hefty elephants plod along slowly, but can live as long as 60 to 80 years.
But what about humans? “Homo sapiens emerges as a very peculiar animal,” answers the “New Scientist” report. “We live about three times as long as mammals of our body size should.” In other words, we do not fit in with this nicely worked-out pattern.
What accounts for this difference? Interestingly, the Bible record shows that our first human parents, but not the animals, had before them the prospect of unending life. They were told that death would be their lot only if they disobeyed the law of God, their Creator. (Gen. 2:9, 15-17) Though biologists may reason that man’s life span is long in relation to his size, it is greatly reduced from what it could have been. Yet the Bible holds forth to humans the prospect of extended life expectancy once again, saying: “Like the days of a tree will the days of my people be.”—Isa. 65:22.