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Title: Telomere length predicts timing and intensity of migratory behaviour in a nomadic songbird
Our understanding of state-dependent behaviour is reliant on identifying physiological indicators of condition. Telomeres are of growing interest for understanding behaviour as they capture differences in biological state and residual lifespan. To understand the significance of variable telomere lengths for behaviour and test two hypotheses describing the relationship between telomeres and behaviour (i.e. the causation and the selective adoption hypotheses), we assessed if telomere lengths are longitudinally repeatable traits related to spring migratory behaviour in captive pine siskins ( Spinus pinus ). Pine siskins are nomadic songbirds that exhibit highly flexible, facultative migrations, including a period of spring nomadism. Captive individuals exhibit extensive variation in spring migratory restlessness and are an excellent system for mechanistic studies of migratory behaviour. Telomere lengths were found to be significantly repeatable ( R = 0.51) over four months, and shorter pre-migratory telomeres were associated with earlier and more intense expression of spring nocturnal migratory restlessness. Telomere dynamics did not vary with migratory behaviour. Our results describe the relationship between telomere length and migratory behaviour and provide support for the selective adoption hypothesis. More broadly, we provide a novel perspective on the significance of variable telomere lengths for animal behaviour and the timing of annual more » cycle events. « less
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Biology Letters
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National Science Foundation
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