We Have No Idea How Most Species Age

To humans, aging can seem to be inextricably linked with physical decline. In 1975, “on a whim,” the photographer Nicholas Nixon decided to illustrate this process. That year he took a picture of his wife and her three sisters standing together, shoulder-to-shoulder; and every year after, for four decades, they stood for a picture in roughly the same position. The transformation of each woman as they age is striking. “We detect more sorrow, perhaps, in the eyes, more weight in the once-fresh brows,” wrote the novelist Susan Minot in the New York Times Magazine, in 2014, when the last photo was taken. “This is what it looks like to grow old.”

A desert tortoise.Photograph by vuttichai chaiya / Shutterstock

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