Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Telomere loss in relation to age and early environment in long-lived birds

By Margaret E. Hall, Lubna Nasir, Francis Daunt, Elizabeth A. Gault, John P. Croxall, Sarah Wanless and Pat Monaghan


Shortening of telomeres, specific nucleotide repeats that cap eukaryotic chromosomes, is thought to play an important role in cellular and organismal senescence. We examined telomere dynamics in two long-lived seabirds, the European shag and the wandering albatross. Telomere length in blood cells declines between the chick stage and adulthood in both species. However, among adults, telomere length is not related to age. This is consistent with reports of most telomere loss occurring early in life in other vertebrates. Thus, caution must be used in estimating annual rates of telomere loss, as these are probably not constant with age. We also measured changes within individuals in the wild, using repeat samples taken from individual shags as chicks and adults. We found high inter-individual variation in the magnitude of telomere loss, much of which was explained by circumstances during growth. Individuals laying down high tissue mass for their size showed greater telomere shortening. Independently of this, individuals born late in the season showed more telomere loss. Early conditions, possibly through their effects on oxidative stress, appear to play an important role in telomere attrition and thus potentially in the longevity of individuals

Topics: Biology and Microbiology
Publisher: Royal Society
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2768
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.