An experimental demonstration that early-life competitive disadvantage accelerates telomere loss

Daniel Nettle, Pat Monaghan, Robert Gillespie, Ben Brilot, Thomas Bedford, Melissa Bateson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

Abstract

Adverse experiences in early life can exert powerful delayed effects on adult survival and health. Telomere attrition is a potentially important mechanism in such effects. One source of early-life adversity is the stress caused by competitive disadvantage. Although previous avian experiments suggest that competitive disadvantage may accelerate telomere attrition, they do not clearly isolate the effects of competitive disadvantage from other sources of variation. Here, we present data from an experiment in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that used cross-fostering to expose siblings to divergent early experience. Birds were assigned either to competitive advantage (being larger than their brood competitors) or competitive disadvantage (being smaller than their brood competitors) between days 3 and 12 post-hatching. Disadvantage did not affect weight gain, but it increased telomere attrition, leading to shorter telomere length in disadvantaged birds by day 12. There were no effects of disadvantage on oxidative damage as measured by plasma lipid peroxidation. We thus found strong evidence that early-life competitive disadvantage can accelerate telomere loss. This could lead to faster age-related deterioration and poorer health in later life.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume282
Issue number1798
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

telomeres
Telomere
Birds
Demonstrations
Health
Sturnus vulgaris
Deterioration
Experiments
bird
Lipids
Plasmas
Starlings
Foster Home Care
birds
hatching
Vulnerable Populations
experiment
lipid
blood lipids
Lipid Peroxidation

Keywords

  • Early-life adversity
  • Early-life stress
  • Oxidative stress
  • Starlings
  • Sturnus vulgaris
  • Telomeres

Cite this

Nettle, Daniel ; Monaghan, Pat ; Gillespie, Robert ; Brilot, Ben ; Bedford, Thomas ; Bateson, Melissa. / An experimental demonstration that early-life competitive disadvantage accelerates telomere loss. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2015 ; Vol. 282, No. 1798.
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An experimental demonstration that early-life competitive disadvantage accelerates telomere loss. / Nettle, Daniel; Monaghan, Pat; Gillespie, Robert; Brilot, Ben; Bedford, Thomas; Bateson, Melissa.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 282, No. 1798, 07.01.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

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AU - Nettle, Daniel

AU - Monaghan, Pat

AU - Gillespie, Robert

AU - Brilot, Ben

AU - Bedford, Thomas

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AB - Adverse experiences in early life can exert powerful delayed effects on adult survival and health. Telomere attrition is a potentially important mechanism in such effects. One source of early-life adversity is the stress caused by competitive disadvantage. Although previous avian experiments suggest that competitive disadvantage may accelerate telomere attrition, they do not clearly isolate the effects of competitive disadvantage from other sources of variation. Here, we present data from an experiment in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that used cross-fostering to expose siblings to divergent early experience. Birds were assigned either to competitive advantage (being larger than their brood competitors) or competitive disadvantage (being smaller than their brood competitors) between days 3 and 12 post-hatching. Disadvantage did not affect weight gain, but it increased telomere attrition, leading to shorter telomere length in disadvantaged birds by day 12. There were no effects of disadvantage on oxidative damage as measured by plasma lipid peroxidation. We thus found strong evidence that early-life competitive disadvantage can accelerate telomere loss. This could lead to faster age-related deterioration and poorer health in later life.

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