Telomere shortening occurs when cells divide, both in vitro and in vivo. On the other hand, telomerase is able to maintain telomere length in cells by adding TTAGGG repeats to the ends of telomeres. However, the interrelationships existing among telomere length, telomerase activity and growth in vertebrates remain to be clarified. In the present study we measured telomere length (terminal restriction fragment length), telomerase activity and body growth of Oryzias latipes from the embryo stage until senescence. During the rapid growth stage (age 0-7 months), telomeres shortened in parallel with decreasing telomerase activity. Then, during adolescence (age 7 months - 1 year), telomeres lengthened quickly as growth slowed and telomerase activity increased. In the adult stage (age 1-4 years) characterized by little growth, telomerase activity decreased gradually and telomeres shortened. Our data indicate that telomere attrition and restoration are linked to growth and telomerase activity, and suggest that critical loss of telomere homeostasis is associated with mortality in this animal.