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Migration and stress during reproduction govern telomere dynamics in a seabird.

Authors: Jannik J. Schultner, Børge B. Moe, Olivier O. Chastel, Claus C. Bech, Alexander S AS. Kitaysky
Published: 01/15/2014, Biology letters


Changes in telomere length are believed to reflect changes in physiological state and life expectancy in animals. However, much remains unknown about the determinants of telomere dynamics in wild populations, and specifically the influence of conditions during highly mobile life-history stages, for example migration. We tested whether telomere dynamics were associated with migratory behaviour and/or with stress during reproduction in free-living seabirds. We induced short-term stress during reproduction in chick-rearing, black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), tracked winter migration with geolocators and measured telomere length before and after winter migration. We found that time spent at wintering grounds correlated with reduced telomere loss, while stress during reproduction accelerated telomere shortening. Our results suggest that different life-history stages interact to influence telomere length, and that migratory patterns may be important determinants of variation in an individual's telomere dynamics.

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