Canterbury College - Our tortoises change science’s view on their lifespan
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Our tortoises change science’s view on their lifespan

Tortoises at a our Spring Lane campus have contributed to a landmark scientific study which has found some species could live almost forever.

Whereas other species - when they reach sexual maturity – trade off reproductive ability with an inability for cells to divide, the Species360 report has found tortoises and turtles continue to grow and spend energy on repairing cell damage.

A researcher on the study, Dr. Fernando Colchero, said: “It is worth noting that the fact that some species of turtle and tortoise show negligible senescence does not mean they are immortal; it only means that their risk of death does not increase with age, but it is still larger than zero. In short, all of them will eventually die due to unavoidable causes of mortality such as illness.”

As part of the research, Canterbury College’s Spring Lane tortoises were studied to provide some of the vital data used in the report, which is available on the widely-used Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS).

The findings are part of a wider study to create benchmark statistics for survival, reproduction and growth across a number of animals.

The studied reptiles are Elsie and Beevis, a male and female pair that were rescued from an international smuggling scheme. Believed to be over 25 years old, the two African Spurred tortoises have been receiving the best possible care at the Spring Lane campus for more than 10 years.

The groundbreaking research, published in the renowned journal Science, will be available to institutions such as zoos, aquariums and conservation centres to determine whether a population is healthy and thriving.

Included in the anonymised data are statistics on survival of the species based on age, the ages at which births most often happen, litter size, birth seasonality and body size.

Ben Woolmer, Animal Care & Land-Based Resources Manager, said: “We’re incredibly proud that Elsie and Beevis are part of this landmark study, which will allow us and other institutes to better understand and care for tortoises.

“Our inclusion is a real testament to the hard work of staff and students to keep meticulous records and maintain best practice.”

Plans have been submitted for the redevelopment of the Spring Lane at Canterbury College campus, which was brought into EKC Group in April 2020. The new facilities would enable students to have an even better experience while vastly reducing the site’s carbon footprint.

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