Open ecology article of the week: The association between stressors and telomeres in non‐human vertebrates: a meta‐analysis

Hey everyone, I have another open ecology article of the week, and this one is from the journal Ecology Letters. As always, this was the first open access article that I came across. I decided to do this rather than picking someone that I personally found interesting, just so we can have as wide of a range of ecology articles as possible.

You can find the open access link here:

Please feel free to discuss this article in the comments below if you like. Questions, comments, or anything remotely relevant is fair game!

Abstract: Animal response to stressors such as harsh environmental conditions and demanding biological processes requires energy generated through increased mitochondrial activity. This results in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In vitro and some in vivo studies suggest that oxidative damage of DNA caused by ROS is responsible for telomere shortening. Since telomere length is correlated with survival in many vertebrates, telomere loss is hypothesised to trigger cellular ageing and/ or to reflect the harshness of the environment an individual has experienced. To improve our understanding of stress‐induced telomere dynamics in non‐human vertebrates, we analysed 109 relevant studies in a meta‐analytical framework. Overall, the exposure to possible stressors was associated with shorter telomeres or higher telomere shortening rate (average effect size = −0.16 ± 0.03). This relationship was consistent for all phylogenetic classes and for all a priori‐selected stressor categories. It was stronger in the case of pathogen infection, competition, reproductive effort and high activity level, which emphasises their importance in explaining intraspecific telomere length variability and, potentially, lifespan variability. Interestingly, the association between stressor exposure and telomeres in one hand, and oxidative stress in the other hand, covaried, suggesting the implication of oxidative stress in telomere dynamics.

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