Lobsters contain a chemical that makes them 'biologically immortal' and may hold the secret to eternal life, scientists believe.
Although they are still susceptible to death by disease or attacks, lobsters can theoretically live forever because getting
older does not raise their chance of dying.
An enzyme known as telomerase prevents the DNA in lobsters' cells from being damaged as they are replicated, scientist Simon Watt reports in The Sun.
Every time cells in living creatures die and are replaced, the ends of the strands of DNA they contain -- known as telomeres -- get shorter.
The gradual erosion of the DNA in cells is thought to be the root cause ageing, as the DNA eventually becomes too badly damaged to perfectly copy cells.
Telomerase prevents this DNA damage by repairing the telomeres, meaning that cells can perfectly replicate again and again.
Lobsters typically weigh one or two pounds, but in 2009 a lobster was caught off the coast of Maine, USA, that weighed 19lb -- a size that would have made it about 140 years old.
Research into telomerase may yield ways of utilising the enzyme to increase our lifespan and prevent cancer.
Other animals can also use telomerase to ward off old age.
Flatworms known as planarians use telomerase to repair their DNA strands and can regrow entire body parts.
When cut in half their body can repair itself to form two new animals.
The key to their success is that 20 per cent of their body is made from stem cells.