Traditional laboratory model organisms have posed problems for studying age-related decline and disease. Scientists have either had to study organisms with short life spans – like yeast and worms – that lack many of the traits of human ageing, or sit around for years waiting for mice, or other vertebrates, to get old. Introducing the African turquoise killifish (pictured), which offers the best of both. This little vertebrate shares many of the classic age-associated characteristics seen in humans – declining fertility, muscle degeneration, cognitive decline and cancer – but its whole life cycle is crammed into just four to six months. The fish evolved such condensed lives because they live in the transient water pools of Zimbabwe and Mozambique that dry-up after the rainy season. And now in their laboratory homes their short lives are offering a speedy solution for discovering ageing-related pathways that might ultimately help humans to live healthier lives for longer.
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