loading page

Telomere length is highly repeatable and declines with more elaborate sexual ornamentation in a short-lived passerine
  • +2
  • Tereza Kauzálová,
  • Oldřich Tomášek,
  • Ellis Mulder,
  • Simon Verhulst,
  • Tomas Albrecht
Tereza Kauzálová
Institute of Vertebrate Biology Czech Academy of Sciences
Author Profile
Oldřich Tomášek
Institute of Vertebrate Biology Czech Academy of Sciences
Author Profile
Ellis Mulder
University of Groningen
Author Profile
Simon Verhulst
University of Groningen
Author Profile
Tomas Albrecht
Institute of Vertebrate Biology Czech Academy of Sciences
Author Profile

Abstract

Quantifying an individual’s state as fitness proxy has proven challenging, but accumulating evidence suggests that telomere length and attrition may indicate individual somatic state and success at self-maintenance, respectively. Sexual ornamentation is also thought to signal phenotypic quality, but links between telomeres and sexual ornamentation have been little explored. To address this issue, we examined whether telomere length and dynamics are predicted by the expression of a sexually selected ornament, the length of outermost tail feathers (streamers), using longitudinal data from a population of European barn swallows (Hirundo rustica). We further assessed associations of telomere length with age, sex, breeding status and survival. Telomere length showed high individual repeatability (R = 0.97) across years while shortening with age in both sexes. Telomere length and dynamics were not significantly associated with survival to the next year, remaining lifespan or reproduction status (comparing breeding and non-breeding yearlings). Tail streamer length was negatively associated with telomere length, independent of sex. Thus, telomere length may reflect the costs of carrying an elaborated sexual ornament, although ornament size did not significantly predict telomere shortening. In conclusion, telomere length in adult barn swallows is a highly consistent trait and shows a negative relationship with sexual ornamentation, suggesting a trade-off between sexual ornamentation and telomere length.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

10 May 2021Submitted to Molecular Ecology
11 May 2021Assigned to Editor
11 May 2021Submission Checks Completed
22 May 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned