Researchers examine environmental stress in migratory birds

Feb 26, 2013

(Phys.org)—Small migratory male birds that winter in a stressful environment age faster than those that winter in a high-quality habitat, according to research stemming from a collaborative National Science Foundation grant between the University of Maine and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The team of biologists, led by former Frederic Angelier working under the direction of UMaine Professor of Biological Sciences Rebecca Holberton, focused on telomeres—the long, repetitive noncoding sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that protect chromosomes from degradation and play a role in the aging process.

The researchers found that telomeres of male American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) that winter in the arid Jamaican scrub habitat shortened significantly faster than telomeres of male American redstarts that winter in a lush Jamaican black mangrove forest.

The findings suggest birds' nonbreeding environment impacts the rate of telomere shortening and has important indirect effects on migratory , the team says.

The researchers also found males with shorter telomeres are less likely to return to the nonbreeding territory the ensuing year than those with longer telomeres, confirming previous studies that telomere length is related to survival in vertebrates.

American redstarts generally arrive in the Font Hill Nature Preserve in Jamaica in mid-September, where they remain until spring migration in April or May.

The team's findings were published in the Jan. 31, 2013 edition of .

Explore further: North American weed poses hay fever problem for Europe

Related Stories

Ultra short telomeres linked to osteoarthritis

Jan 16, 2012

Telomeres, the very ends of chromosomes, become shorter as we age. When a cell divides it first duplicates its DNA and, because the DNA replication machinery fails to get all the way to the end, with each successive cell ...

Recommended for you

Fears for pink iguanas as Galapagos volcano erupts

6 hours ago

A volcano in the Galapagos islands erupted for the first time in more than 30 years Monday, sending streams of lava flowing down its slopes and potentially threatening the world's only colony of pink iguanas.

Ecologists develop new method for mapping poaching threats

May 22, 2015

Ecologists from the University of York, together with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), have developed a new method to better identify where poachers operate in protected areas.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.