From the dawn of fantasy fiction, dwarfs have most often been described roughly in the same way: short and stocky, long beards, can smith stuff, good fighters, can live for hundreds of years aging very slowly after "puberty", heavy drinkers.

But now, dermatologists want to know their secret.

How can they live so long and start growing wrinkles only after 100-200 years? And they even keep their strength and endurance! If only we could understand more... "scientifically" how their body works.

(No dwarfs were harmed in the making of this question.)

Jokes aside, what would need to change in human biology - aside from build and height, of course - to create dwarfs and have them live for at least 200 years without suffering from age-related issues, only starting to actually "enter old age" after that period?

All I can think of is something along the lines of "stem cells, but more numerous and on steroids".

Would this even be possible in our world? If not, what could be changed to allow it?

Warhammer dwarf Dwarf from after puberty (25 years?) to 200 or more years of age (image source)

Old dwarf Dwarf in old age, with regular wrinkles, aches and whatever (image source)

  • $\begingroup$ What kind of answer do you expect? Some DNA sequence or a couple of proteins that would prevent this? Nobody can tell you that. Do you want a list of things that happen with old age that need to be prevented? Do you want a list if things that show some promise in reducing wrinkles (or other symptoms)? I don't think it's a bad question, just very aimlessly asked. Btw I think animals show symptoms of old age scaled back to their average lifespan, e.g. a lot of rats get cancer and die from it after only 3 years, making them good test subjects, so don't worry? But I'm no biologist $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 7 '18 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I'm not asking "hey give me the recipe for eternal youth", I'm asking if it's at least theoretically possible and sensible, and what would a species need to evolve such a trait. How do you suggest I change the question? $\endgroup$ – Hankrecords Feb 7 '18 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is I don't know what you want to know, so I can't tell you how to change your question. What do you mean by a species needs x to evolve such a trait? What would X be for real examples, take any long-lived animal if you like. I think the question is even backwards perhaps, in order to live long, they need to have symptoms of old age only close to 200 years. You don't just live 200 years but get old at 50 without serious sciencing. What kind of symptoms, from better teeth than humans to cancer resistance (especially since they live underground) - that's a huge list. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 7 '18 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I'm mostly looking for "well first of all, having more 'powerful' and more durable stem cells would help, then they'd need to resist cancer and have powerful livers..." stuff like that $\endgroup$ – Hankrecords Feb 7 '18 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ You are a dog. You stare at the hairless ape in the room with you and wonder "why does that brstrd get to live for so long when we magnificent creatures die ? And what is this muck in my feeding bowl anyway ?". There's no clear understanding of the "root cause" of aging, so I don't thing you'll get a simple answer. For reference the study of this is called Senescence. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Feb 7 '18 at 11:39

Well fine, call me out on saying this is too broad before, but here is an approach that might not make it too broad:

Mushrooms are known for producing all kinds of weird chemicals, from drugs to antibiotics. I'm sorry for this article being badly written, but here is something about fungi and a mine: click. I'm sure you get the idea: Fungi are great at biochemistry and grow underground. So in your world, or more specifically under your world, have mushrooms grow that prevent all kinds of things related to the aging process. As stated before, we don't know how to stop aging, but magical mushrooms might.

Consider a symbiosis. What's problematic in mines? Radiation click. What lifeform is really good with radiation? Certain mushroom click.

Fungi can even grow on the human skin as you might have experienced yourself before click. Why is the dwarf's skin less wrinkled? Because they have some mushroom doing that. They can live inside the human body. How do dwarfes get pretty old even when not underground? Because after thousands of years living with the mushrooms, they carry them with them in their own bodies.

Btw, this is unrelated, just something I would do: Have really old dwarfs grow small mushrooms out of their ears. They are taking over the body! And if you look closely, I can even see some kind of skin disease in a pattern similar to a tattoo on that old dwarf in your last picture.

  • $\begingroup$ That is a cool idea. Not only does it answer the age problem, it's also a very interesting twist to the dwarf race (fungi-covered skin) What kind of fungi do you think would make the most sense to grow on their skin naturally? Mushroom-like or something like mildew? $\endgroup$ – Hankrecords Feb 7 '18 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Hankrecords I've added a link, but here is it again: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycosis Does this answer the question? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 7 '18 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I had commented before you added the link :) do you have anything on mushrooms (not just fungi, actual mushrooms looking something like this) growing on skin? Or do you know if it's possible? $\endgroup$ – Hankrecords Feb 7 '18 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Hankrecords I added the link because of your comment ;). Sadly I do not, maybe if I spend more time researching. But I'm sure the made up kind does grow there $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 7 '18 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ Hah, I had forgot all about the madeupshroom, I'm pretty sure human skin is actually its preferred habitat. $\endgroup$ – Hankrecords Feb 7 '18 at 15:58

Easiest answer: Blood need to travel shorter distance, heart don't need to pump with such force, saves beats, can work for longer time.

In the Villagrande Strisaili village on Sardinia you have biggest (per capita) amount of people over 100 years old. The funny fact is that those centenarians were usually of lower height than their generation "norm".

Then you reverse problems that have tall humans have. So higher probability of cancer. Bigger people have more cells so higher probability of mutations. Longer veins mean more surface for blockades that "regular" blood pressure can't handle. High blood pressure in humans can lead to arteriosclerosis but with dwarfs it's the opposite. It an even prevent thrombosis. So dwarfs blood pressure is higher by default.

Next: Living and working in mines so there is lower amount of oxygen in air so slower oxidation of lungs. No direct sunlight to better skin and no skin cancer.

Also coal veil body in protective film while it's presence in nostrils act like additionall filter.

  • $\begingroup$ Have you just suggested that working and living in mines is healthy and should lead to a longer life span because your lung doesn't get oxidized as much and you have a nice protective filter of coal dust in your nose? Just take some vitamin E. Have you considered working for the mining industry? Maybe they should look into such a camapign, recruit those kids right out of school for a better, longer and healthier life down in the coal mine $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 7 '18 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Yes, I did :). It's magic world after all. We know how mine affect adults lungs but no idea how it affect dwarfs with high blood pressure. Also kids were working in mines and cleaning those chimneys and it was the best time for Great Britain. Main sickness for miners is pneumoconiosis. How you prevent that? Wearing some filter on your mouth and nose. Some carefully braided one. From your beard and moustaches. That's why even women dwarfs have facial hairs. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 7 '18 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Finally a suggestion on how to make Britain great again that will surely work and not backfire after a couple of years. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 7 '18 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well, exploitation of child labour is working for Korea and Apple so why not? Civilised labour laws? Who need that when you have all the gold dragon can carry and a kingdom under a mountain? $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 7 '18 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ I like this. Big dogs die a lot faster than small dogs. Clearly diseases of age track with size. Possibly because of insulin-related growth factors? It stands to reason that the oldest dwarves would be those of Yodæsque smallness. Upvote because of my opportunity to write "Yodæsque" with that funky character in it. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 7 '18 at 13:59

A lower core body temperature.

Not all mammals maintain 98 Fahrenheit. For cats, it's 102 (one reason they love warm spots).

Most mammals are in the 100-105 range, and most don't live as long as humans.

A lower core body temperature would also generally fit with dwarf lore. They live underground, where it's cool - until you get really deep. They aren't as good at long distance running as humans and elves (Gimli) - perhaps because the surface is too hot for them.

In the end, all they need is evolutionary pressure to live longer. Maybe Dwarves don't get raised by their parents, but by their grandparents. This frees the younger, healthier Dwarves to work, and the children benefit from the added wisdom of the grandparents.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it would make much sense... the coldest an animal's body temperature is, the more heat and sun it will need to stay warm. Lizards, for example, need to spend a lot of time under direct sunlight to not die. So living underground I'd argue that they would need a higher body temperature, not lower. $\endgroup$ – Hankrecords Feb 7 '18 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Hantrecords That's the thing, though. They don't need to stay warm. They need to stay whatever temperature they evolved to stay at. $\endgroup$ – user47242 Feb 7 '18 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Hankrecords James is right, in mines you have higher temperature than outside. So Dwarfs bodies would need lower calorie intake so slower metabolism to warm themselves as they would get warm from environment. Kind like tortoises or aligators. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 7 '18 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Hankrecords you're comparing ectothermic and endothermic animals (or just running to the extreme without recognizing a wide array of intermediate states). I think this suggestion is for an endotherm with a core body temp closer to 18 C (64ish F) rather than the human norm of around 37 C (98 F). The lower-temperature endotherm should have considerably lower oxidative stress. And sunlight isn't the only (or best) way to generate heat in ectotherms - many keep warm through work (very dwarfy) using waste heat from muscles to raise their internal temperature. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Feb 7 '18 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ @SZCZERZOKŁY mine temperature depends on a lot of factors, such as just how deep they are going. The ground near the surface is basically always at the annual average temperature (gross over-simplification) - you have to get really deep or be near a magma plume to get high heat. Regardless, the temperature itself isn't as important as thermal regulation - being able to keep the same temp regardless of your environmental temp - being in an environment which mostly just stays at the same temp year round is very convenient. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Feb 7 '18 at 14:27

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