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Two aspects of longevity are associated with the rate of loss of telomeres in birds
  • F. Stephen Dobson,
  • Quentin Schull,
  • François Criscuolo
F. Stephen Dobson
Auburn University
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Quentin Schull
MARBEC, Univ Montpellier, CNRS, IFREMER, IRD
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François Criscuolo
Institut pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien
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Abstract

Telomeres, the terminal repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of linear chromosomes, have strong associations with longevity in some major taxa. Longevity has been linked to rate of decline in telomere length in birds and mammals, and absolute telomere length seems to be associated with body mass in mammals. Using a phylogenetic comparative method and 30 species of birds, we examined longevity (reflected by maximum lifespan), absolute telomere length, the rate of change in telomere length (TROC), and body mass (often strongly associated with longevity) to ascertain their degree of association. We divided lifespan into two life-history components, one reflected by body size (measured as body mass), and a component that was statistically independent of body mass. While both lifespan and body mass were strongly associated with a family tree of the species (viz., the phylogeny of the species), telomere measures were not. Telomere length was not significantly associated with longevity or body mass, or our measure of mass-independent lifespan. TROC, however, was strongly associated with mass-independent lifespan, but to a lesser degree with body mass. Our results supported an association of TROC and longevity, in particular longevity that was independent of body size and part of the pace-of-life syndrome of life histories.