Bill size correlates with telomere length in male American Redstarts
Telomere length (TL) has been shown to be a potential predictor of survival in wild vertebrates, and, as a consequence, there is growing interest in understanding the causes of inter-individual variability in TL. In that context, developmental conditions deserve a specific attention because they are thought to be a major driver of telomere shortening. Because poor developmental conditions can accelerate telomere shortening and impair growth (resulting in a small adult size), a positive correlation between TL and body size is expected. However, and surprisingly, the relationship between body size and telomere length has rarely been described in wild vertebrates. Here, we specifically examined this question in hatch-year (HY) and after hatch-year (AHY) male wintering American Redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla). Although tarsus size was not related to TL, we found a significant positive correlation between bill size and TL in HY male Redstarts, therefore supporting the idea that determinants of some components of individual size are also important determinants of TL in young birds. Moreover, this positive relationship between bill size and TL was also found for AHY birds, suggesting that adult TL may be, at least partly, explained by the telomere dynamics that occurred during the developmental phase.
This article is from Journal of Ornithology 156 (2015); 525, doi: 10.1007/s10336-015-1158-9.