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Study finds that earlier sex means earlier death for reptiles

New research suggests that reptiles that have sex earlier and more frequently may be at a higher risk of early death.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln in the U.K. studied the longevity of scaled reptiles, analyzing 1,014 different reptile species in a study published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. The animals included 672 lizards, 336 snakes, five worm lizards, and a "lizardlike creature called a tuatara." The scientists found that the reptiles tended to die at younger ages if they "reached sexual maturation earlier and laid eggs or gave birth more times than their counterparts did," LiveScience reports.

"We observed that more sex (or at least more pregnancies) means shorter life," Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Lincoln, said in a statement. "The study revealed that reptiles which sexually mature at a younger age will likely have shorter lives, while those who prefer to delay sexual maturity will probably live longer."

Sex and pregnancy weren't the only indicators of early death for the animals, though — the researchers also found that eating meat was related to the reptiles' longevity. The scientists found that reptiles that ate meat tended to grow faster and have sex earlier than herbivorous reptiles, which could explain the carnivores' shorter lifespans, LiveScience notes.