Inbreeding is associated with shorter early-life telomere length in a wild passerine

Pepke, M. L., Niskanen, A. K., Kvalnes, T., Boner, W. , Sæther, B.-E., Ringsby, T. H. and Jensen, H. (2022) Inbreeding is associated with shorter early-life telomere length in a wild passerine. Conservation Genetics, 23(3), pp. 639-651. (doi: 10.1007/s10592-022-01441-x)

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Inbreeding can have negative effects on survival and reproduction, which may be of conservation concern in small and isolated populations. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying inbreeding depression are not well-known. The length of telomeres, the DNA sequences protecting chromosome ends, has been associated with health or fitness in several species. We investigated effects of inbreeding on early-life telomere length in two small island populations of wild house sparrows (Passer domesticus) known to be affected by inbreeding depression. Using genomic measures of inbreeding we found that inbred nestling house sparrows (n = 371) have significantly shorter telomeres. Using pedigree-based estimates of inbreeding we found a tendency for inbred nestling house sparrows to have shorter telomeres (n = 1195). This negative effect of inbreeding on telomere length may have been complemented by a heterosis effect resulting in longer telomeres in individuals that were less inbred than the population average. Furthermore, we found some evidence of stronger effects of inbreeding on telomere length in males than females. Thus, telomere length may reveal subtle costs of inbreeding in the wild and demonstrate a route by which inbreeding negatively impacts the physiological state of an organism already at early life-history stages.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was funded by the Research Council of Norway (274930 and 302619) and through its Centres of Excellence scheme (223257).
Keywords:Biomarker, conservation physiology, heterosis, inbreeding depression, single nucleotide polymorphisms, telomere dynamics.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boner, Dr Winnie
Authors: Pepke, M. L., Niskanen, A. K., Kvalnes, T., Boner, W., Sæther, B.-E., Ringsby, T. H., and Jensen, H.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Conservation Genetics
ISSN (Online):1572-9737
Published Online:10 April 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Conservation Genetics 23(3): 639-651
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
Data DOI:10.17605/OSF.IO/VN8GE

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