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Biol Lett. 2010 October 23; 6(5): 651–653.
Published online 2010 March 31. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0126
PMCID: PMC2936144

Proximate determinants of telomere length in sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)


Telomeres are repeat sequences of non-coding DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes and contribute to their stability and the genomic integrity of cells. In evolutionary ecology, the main research target regarding these genomic structures has been their role in ageing and as a potential index of age. However, research on humans shows that a number of traits contribute to among-individual differences in telomere length, in particular traits enhancing cell division and genetic erosion, such as levels of free radicals and stress. In lizards, tail loss owing to predation attempts results in a stress-induced shift to a more cryptic lifestyle. In sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) males, telomere length was compromised by tail regrowth in a body size-related manner, so that small males, which already exhibit more cryptic mating tactics, were less affected than larger males. Tail regrowth just fell short of having a significant relationship with telomere length in females, and so did age in males. In females, there was a significant positive relationship between age and telomere length. We conclude that the proximate effect of compromised antipredation and its associated stress seems to have a more pronounced effect in males than in females and that age-associated telomere dynamics differ between the sexes.

Keywords: autotomy, telomere length, predation stress

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