Chromosome ends hold clues to a bird's longevity

Short telomeres tied to higher mortality in Indian Ocean warblers

9:56pm, November 20, 2012

The long and short of a bird’s life may be recorded in the tips of its chromosomes, a new study suggests.

A study of Seychelles warblers living on a small island in the Indian Ocean suggests that the length of telomeres — bits of DNA that cap chromosome ends — can predict a bird’s chance of dying better than its chronological age can. Warblers with shorter telomeres were less likely to survive another year, especially if the truncation happened rapidly, David S. Richardson, a molecular ecologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and colleagues report online November 20 in Molecular Ecology.

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