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: Culprit identified in decline of endangered Missouri River pallid sturgeon

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

Kalbarri abalone gets helping hand

Jan 23, 2015

Department of Fisheries staff and Kalbarri fishermen have released 24,000 Roe's abalone (Haliotis roei) onto reef platforms along the cliffs north of Kalbarri, to restock a population decimated by the marine ...

Cichlid sisters swim together in order to reach the goal

Jan 23, 2015

The manner and routes of dispersal vary with the species and the ecological conditions. Many fish form shoals to avoid predation. Shoaling with familiar conspecifics affords the fish an even greater advantage ...

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.