Belligerent young male badgers make themselves age faster by constantly fighting, research suggests.

The discovery may shed light on why males of many species, including humans, age faster than females.

Stressful competition between males early in life could result in accelerated ageing later in life, scientists believe.

Andrew Young, one of the researchers from the University of Exeter said: “The findings are particularly interesting because males age faster than females in many species, including our own, but we don’t really understand why.

“Our findings suggest that male badgers age faster than females because of the male-male competition that they experience during their lifetimes; males that experience strong competition age more quickly than females, while males that experience little competition do not.”

The scientists used weight loss to measure the rate of badger ageing. Like humans, the animals lose weight and become frail as they grow old.

Body mass in badgers, which have lifespans of up to 13 years in the wild, is positively associated with reproductive success and survival.

Co-author Christopher Beirne, from the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “The study shows that when male badgers don’t have to fight for a mate, they can prioritise their health and well-being and as a result they age more slowly. However, when badgers fight a lot in their youth, they really pay for it by ageing rapidly in later life.”

The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society B.



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