The evolutionary framework applied to organismal responses to marco-environmental challenges also pertains to micro-environmental cellular challenges involved in the ageing process and the evolution of senescence.
Traditionally studies on ageing have been based on laboratory studies using short-lived species such as Drosophila spp, C. elegans, and rodents as model systems.
Compared to short-lived models systems, long-lived species, with low extrinsic mortality rate (such as water pythons) are in many ways more appropriate models to elucidate the significance of immune function in counteracting the often deleterious effects associated with ageing.
We have developed molecular methods that enabled us to identify individual variation in water python parasite infection levels and analyse age-specific individual variation in.
The data generated from these studies have demonstrated the profound impact of parasite infections on python life-history and of MHC genotype to combat parasite infections.
Importantly, for the first time we have demonstrated the significance of non-specific antibodies (polyreactive Natural Antibodies) in counteracting the effects of immunosenescence in a long-lived vertebrate tropical predator.