Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is a prominent event in rodents. In species with longer life expectancies, newly born cells in the adult dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation are less abundant or can be completely absent. Several lines of evidence indicate that the regulatory mechanisms of adult neurogenesis differ between short- and long-lived mammals. After a critical appraisal of the factors and problems associated with comparing different species, we provide a quantitative comparison derived from seven laboratory strains of mice (BALB, C57BL/6, CD1, outbred) and rats (F344, Sprague-Dawley, Wistar), six other rodent species of which four are wild-derived (wood mouse, vole, spiny mouse and guinea pig), three non-human primate species (marmoset and two macaque species) and one carnivore (red fox). Normalizing the number of proliferating cells to total granule cell number, we observe an overall exponential decline in proliferation that is chronologically equal between species and orders and independent of early developmental processes and life span. Long- and short-lived mammals differ with regard to major life history stages; at the time points of weaning, age at first reproduction and average life expectancy, long-lived primates and foxes have significantly fewer proliferating cells than rodents. Although the database for neuronal differentiation is limited, we find indications that the extent of neuronal differentiation is subject to species-specific selective adaptations. We conclude that absolute age is the critical factor regulating cell genesis in the adult hippocampus of mammals. Ontogenetic and ecological factors primarily influence the regulation of neuronal differentiation rather than the rate of cell proliferation.