Reproductive death: A fast track to ageing?

Jul 29, 2023

The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans undergoes an accelerated ageing process due to a self-destructive reproductive effort. This behaviour, where the organism’s biomass is repurposed leading to organ degeneration, is typical of species that experience a single intense reproductive episode followed by rapid death, known as reproductive death.


Key takeaways: C. elegans ageing is accelerated by a self-destructive reproductive programme


  • Accelerated ageing in caenorhabditis elegans: The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a model organism in ageing research, undergoes an accelerated ageing process. This is primarily driven by its unique reproductive behaviour
  • Self-destructive reproductive behaviour: This organism exhibits a behaviour where it repurposes its own biomass during reproduction. This repurposing leads to significant organ degeneration, particularly affecting organs involved in reproduction
  • Reproductive death phenomenon: The behaviour observed in Caenorhabditis elegans is indicative of a phenomenon known as reproductive death. This is where species undergo a single, intense reproductive episode and then experience rapid death. This strategy contrasts with species that reproduce multiple times over their lifespan and age more gradually


The findings highlight a direct connection between reproductive strategies and the ageing process. This suggests that the way an organism reproduces can have profound effects on its longevity and overall healthspan.


Reference: Kern, C.C., Srivastava, S., Ezcurra, M. et al. C. elegans ageing is accelerated by a self-destructive reproductive programme. Nat Commun 14, 4381 (2023).