Senescence by the Sea

Whilst it is certain that we all must die,

Why is it that we must grow old with age?

Our final acts upon this mortal stage

Would seem less fierce if youth would not pass by.


But urchins in the sea do now defy

The thoughts that drown declining minds with rage:

Whilst it is certain that we all must die,

Why is it that we must grow old with age?


These oceanic tykes tore up the page

That life and ageing mutually comply.

And if somehow we can identify

This process then old age we can assuage,

Whilst it is certain that we all must die.


A red sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) can live for over 100 years (Photo Credit: Kirt L. Onthank; CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons).


This is a Rondel written about recent research, which investigated the biological ageing (AKA senescence) in three different types of sea urchin, all of which had different life expectancies (4 years, 50 years and 100 years, respectively). It was expected that the sea urchins with shorter life expectancies would age more rapidly (i.e. their regenerative capacity would decline more rapidly) than their longer living counterparts. However, the researchers found no evidence of a decline in regenerative capacity with age, which suggests that biological ageing may not in fact be tied to a short life expectancy. Further studies of this longevity in sea urchins will help to inform evolutionary theory, and may also produce innovative solutions for humans in maintaining their health with advancing age.

An audio version of the poem can be heard here.


2 thoughts on “Senescence by the Sea”

  1. Good morning from Blue Hill, Maine. (By the sea.)

    I’ve just been alerted to your page by a friend who is busy right now curating an “Art Meets Science” exhibit opening next month at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. Her father and I have been together for nearly eight years now: we met in a poetry class for “senior citizens” after he had retired from a career teaching physics at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. And now he writes poetry. He will love your work.

    I’ve read, with admiration, your rondel about the urchins’ senescence. I’m also in the middle of reading Atul Gawande’s wonderful but awful new book, “Being Mortal” — your poem is a lovely pick-up and should be sold together with the book. (My friend & I are 91 & 87.)

    Warm regards,

    Barbara (BG) Thorpe
    Blue Hill Maine 04614

    • Barbara, thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I really hope that your partner enjoys my poetry, and I am happy to talk or email about any thoughts at any point. I will also check out ‘Being Mortal’. Thank you again for putting a smile on my face. ?


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