Telomere shortening and survival in free-living corvids

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Abstract

Evidence accumulates that telomere shortening reflects lifestyle and predicts remaining lifespan, but little is known of telomere dynamics and their relation to survival under natural conditions. We present longitudinal telomere data in free-living jackdaws (Corvus monedula) and test hypotheses on telomere shortening and survival. Telomeres in erythrocytes were measured using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Telomere shortening rates within individuals were twice as high as the population level slope, demonstrating that individuals with short telomeres are less likely to survive. Further analysis showed that shortening rate in particular predicted survival, because telomere shortening was much accelerated during a bird's last year in the colony. Telomere shortening was also faster early in life, even after growth was completed. It was previously shown that the lengths of the shortest telomeres best predict cellular senescence, suggesting that shorter telomeres should be better protected. We test the latter hypothesis and show that, within individuals, long telomeres shorten faster than short telomeres in adults and nestlings, a result not previously shown in vivo. Moreover, survival selection in adults was most conspicuous on relatively long telomeres. In conclusion, our longitudinal data indicate that the shortening rate of long telomeres may be a measure of 'life stress' and hence holds promise as a biomarker of remaining lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3157-3165
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Volume276
Issue number1670
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24-Jul-2009

Keywords

  • ageing
  • selective disappearance
  • oxidative stress
  • birds
  • life history
  • mixed models
  • LONG-LIVED BIRDS
  • INDIVIDUAL CHROMOSOME ARMS
  • STEM-CELL TURNOVER
  • LIFE-SPAN
  • OXIDATIVE STRESS
  • HUMAN FIBROBLASTS
  • BLOOD-CELLS
  • DNA-DAMAGE
  • OLDEST-OLD
  • IN-VIVO

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