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Pale and dark morphs of tawny owls show different patterns of telomere dynamics in relation to disease status

Author:
  • Patrik Karell
  • Staffan Bensch
  • Kari Ahola
  • Muhammad Asghar
Publishing year: 2017-07-26
Language: English
Publication/Series: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume: 284
Issue: 1859
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Parasites are expected to exert long-term costs on host fecundity and longevity. Understanding the consequences of heritable polymorphic variation in disease defence in wild populations is essential in order to predict evolutionary responses to changes in disease risk. Telomeres have been found to shorten faster in malaria-diseased individuals compared with healthy ones with negative effects on longevity and thereby fitness. Here, we study the impact of haemosporidian blood parasites on telomere dynamics in tawny owls, which display a highly heritable plumage colour polymorphism. Previously, it has been shown that blood parasites have morph-specific impact on body mass maintenance. Here, we show that telomeres shortened faster in individuals with shorter breeding lifespan. Telomere length was negatively associated with the degree of pheomelanic brown coloration and shorter in infected than uninfected individuals. The rate of telomere shortening between breeding seasons was faster in darker pheomelanic individuals and suppression of parasite intensity between seasons was associated with faster telomere shortening in the paler individuals but not in darker ones. We propose that morph-specific physiological profiles cause differential telomere shortening and that this is likely to be a mechanism involved in previously documented environment-driven survival selection against the pheomelanic morph in this population.

Keywords

  • Cell Biology
  • Ecology
  • Ecoimmunology
  • Host-parasite interaction
  • Life history
  • Melanism
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Strix aluco

Other

Published
  • ISSN: 0962-8452
Staffan Bensch
E-mail: staffan [dot] bensch [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor

MEMEG

+46 46 222 42 92

E-C213

Sölvegatan 37, Lund

50

Head of unit

MEMEG

+46 46 222 42 92

E-C213

Sölvegatan 37, Lund

50

Research group

Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab

Projects

Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

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