Research on model organisms has substantially advanced our understanding of aging. However, these studies collectively lack any examination of the element of sociality, an important feature of human biology. Social insects present a number of unique possibilities for investigating social influences on aging and potentially detecting new mechanisms for extremely prolonged, healthy life spans that have evolved naturally. Social evolution has led to life spans in reproductive females that are much longer (up to over 100-fold) than those of males or of nonreproductive worker castes. These differences are particularly dramatic because they are due to environmental influences, as all individuals develop from the same genomes. Social insect colonies consist of semi-autonomous individuals, and the relationship between the colony and the individual creates many interesting predictions in the light of the common theories of aging. Furthermore, the variety of lifestyles of social insects creates the potential for crucial comparative analyses across distinct social systems.
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