What is the secret to a long life? The heartbeat of some animals may hold a clue.

Studies have concluded that mammals get about a billion heartbeats per lifetime. They can use them at a rate of a thousand per minute, like the shrew, or space them out into slow, ponderous beats, over many years, as is the case for the grey whale. But there are notable exceptions. Some species get more than their fair billion beats. The extent to which these species live beyond a billion beats must depend, in part, upon unique features of their biology. Whatever these features are, if we understood them, we might be able to figure out new ways to extend our own health, push our worn cells and hearts through a few more beats, maybe many. But first, we need heart rate data for as many species as possible.


We are gathering reports of the heart rate and lifespan of as many vertebrate species as possible. By scanning through old books and scientific papers, we’ve already found data on more than 150 species of mammals. Now we need your help tracking down records for other vertebrates, particularly birds, reptiles and fish!

In this new project — launched in coordination with the publication of Rob Dunn’s new book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart — our goal is to integrate data from various sources into a single database, where they can be more readily accessible. The data we need about heartbeats across vertebrates may be one Google search away or buried deep within old scientific work about unrelated topics.

And so we’re calling on you, citizen science data sleuths! Visit beats.robdunnlab.com and get your search on today!