Despite a number of biochemical and lifestyle differences which should increase risk of oxidative damage to their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and thus reduce expected lifespan, avian species often display longer lifespans than mammals of similar body mass. Recent work in mammalian ageing has demonstrated that functional mitochondrial copy number declines with age. We noted that several bird species display duplication of the control region (CR) of the mtDNA to form a pseudo-control region (YCR), apparently an avian-specific phenomenon. To investigate whether the presence of this duplication may play a similar role in longevity to mitochondrial copy number in mammals, we correlated body mass and longevity in 92 avian families and demonstrate a significant association. Furthermore, outlier analysis demonstrated a significant (p=0.01) difference associated with presence of the YCR duplication in longer-lived avian species. Further research is required to determine if the YCR does indeed alter mitochondrial function or resilience to oxidative damage, but these findings provide an intriguing hint of how mitochondrial sequences may be related to an extended lifespan.
Skujina, I., McMahon, R., Lenis, V. E., Gkoutos, G. V., & Hegarty, M. (2016). Duplication of the mitochondrial control region is associated with increased longevity in birds. Aging, 8(8), 1781-1789. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.101012