Animals / General / Nature / Science

Kung fu Panda – Master Oogway’s secret

Master Oogway of Kung Fu Panda fame is revered by all (including me) – the calm VERY VERY old tortoise guru has guided the path of many, in his own composed and stable manner. Tortoises somehow seem to radiate that aura around them – don’t you think so? If you have seen them at a zoo or elsewhere, there is no reverberating roar or twittering or frantic hops or leaps in their enclosure. If you don’t mind the smell of the foliage they munch upon, one could sit there for ages wondering whether the tortoise you are seeing is a real one and not a statue.

Did you know – Tortoises live for a very very long time. There are some captive ones which have touched a double century in their age. How do they manage to live so long? – a secret many would ‘die’ to know (pun intended). There has been much study conducted on how these gentle animals manage to survive for so long. Being mild mannered, and peace loving, they don’t get into fights or attack other animals as part of their life. This makes them less susceptible to fall prey to such animal massacres. They thrive on a healthy diet of green leaves and the like, and thus would definitely not have an overload of unwanted cholesterol and fat in the system. Their mighty armour also shields them from other attacks and they just calmly retreat into their shell when threatened while the attacker can spend hours in vain chipping and clawing at the iron coat of arms over our friend the tortoise. While all this do contribute to the longevity in a tortoise, there is something else which could be a major reason as well.

The slower metabolism in tortoises have been attributed to play a key role in conferring a long life to tortoises. Metabolism refers to the physical and biochemical processes which are involved in the extraction of energy from the food you eat – or in other words the burning of food as fuel for powering the physiological processes in the body. By products of metabolism include molecules called free radicals which are known to damage the DNA thereby harming cells. As free radicals surge, the body gets crippled in various forms and leads to long lasting damage as well.

While shrews, humming birds and rats who have a faster metabolism, have a much shorter life span, Mr.Tortoise who has a very slow metabolic rate seem to wisely consume the fuel he intakes. They burn their energy very slowly and thus ‘burn’ them longer than other animals including humans. Thus it can be safely stated that metabolic rate influences the life span of an organism, the faster the metabolic rate, the shorter the lifespan and the slower the metabolism, the longer the organism would live.

Many research groups have now embarked on a genome based study of tortoises to understand the molecular determinants of their long life and very soon we may be able to pin point the exact reason at the cellular level which confers this advantage to these docile creatures.

This makes me wonder, in days of yore, it was not uncommon in Asia, sages who renounce food in the deep dark jungles or atop mountains and hills, and sit in calm repose. These sages used to live for around a hundred years. Does this process of meditation apply a break on the body’s metabolism and makes one burn their fuel slowly thus increasing their longevity? Very much possible – While we cannot escape to jungles or to mountain tops to duplicate what they do, definitely toning down one’s agitative behaviour and adopting a healthy lifestyle may help increase one’s lifespan much like Mr.Oogway our wise master.

For an interesting read on these topics visit:,rate%20live%20slower%20and%20longer. (a good video on metabolism)



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