• Open Access

A call to fins! Zebrafish as a gerontological model


  • Glenn S. Gerhard,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pathology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Keith C. Cheng

    1. Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Institute,
    2. Department of Pathology, and
    3. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Glenn S. Gerhard, Department of Pathology, Dartmouth Medical School, VA Research Building Room 2–140, 215 North Main Street, White River Junction, VT 05009, USA. Tel. +1 802 295 9363, ext 5871; fax: +1 802 296 6308; e-mail: Glenn.S.Gerhard@dartmouth.edu


Among the wide variety of model organisms commonly used for studies on aging, such as worms, flies and rodents, a wide research gap exists between the invertebrate and vertebrate model systems. In developmental biology, a similar gap has been filled by the zebrafish (Danio rerio). We propose that the zebrafish is uniquely suited to serve as a bridge model for gerontology. With high fecundity and economical husbandry requirements, large populations of zebrafish may be generated quickly and cheaply, facilitating large-scale approaches including demographic studies and mutagenesis screens. A variety of mutants identified in such screens have led to modelling of human disease, including cardiac disorders and cancer. While zebrafish longevity is at least 50% longer than in commonly used mouse strains, as an ectothermic fish species, its life span may be readily modulated by caloric intake, ambient temperature and reproductive activity. These features, coupled with a growing abundance of biological resources, including an ongoing genome sequencing project, make the zebrafish a compelling model organism for studies on aging.