Conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Nebraska, the study focused on whether insects exposed to stressful conditions in the natural world would age much faster than those under benign laboratory conditions.
For their study, the researchers used the giant Australian stilt-legged fly Telostylinus angusticollis, a sexually dimorphic animal that breeds on rotten wood.
In order to identify individual flies in the wild, the researchers wrote codes-combinations of Arabic numerals and Latin and Japanese letters-on their backs using enamel paint.
The group then recorded the comings and goings of marked individuals on Acacia trunks while simultaneously monitoring their captive cousins in the lab.
It was found that the rate of aging was at least two-fold greater in the wild than in the laboratory.
For both sexes, life expectancies in the wild were dramatically shorter than in the lab.
Study leader Nori Kawasaki says that the team's observations that animals can age much faster in their stressful natural environments than in the benign conditions of the laboratory suggest that laboratory estimates of aging and lifespan should be interpreted with considerable caution.
The study has been published in the American Naturalist.