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Timing matters: traffic noise accelerates telomere loss rate differently across developmental stages

Dorado-Correa, Adriana and Zollinger, Sue Anne and Heidinger, Britt and Brumm, Henrik (2018) Timing matters: traffic noise accelerates telomere loss rate differently across developmental stages. Frontiers in Zoology, 15 (29). ISSN 1742-9994

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Abstract

Background Noise pollution is one of the leading environmental health risks for humans, linked to a myriad of stress-related health problems. Yet little is known about the long-term effects of noise on the health and fitness of wildlife. We experimentally investigated the direct and cross-generational effects of traffic noise on telomeres; a measure of cellular ageing that is predictive of disease and longevity in humans and other organisms. We exposed zebra finches (Taenopygia guttata) to three different treatment groups: 1) parents were exposed to traffic noise before and during breeding, together with their nestling young, 2) fledged juveniles but not their parents were exposed to traffic noise, and 3) control group birds were never exposed to traffic noise. Results Although there was no significant effect of traffic noise exposure at early (pre-fledging) stages of offspring telomere length or loss rate, traffic noise exposure accelerated telomere loss in older (post-fledging) juveniles. Conclusions The age-dependent differences found in this study in telomere loss could occur if parents buffer younger offspring against the detrimental effects of noise exposure and/or if younger offspring are less sensitive to noise exposure. Telomere length during early life has been shown to be positively related to lifespan and the observed noise-induced increase of telomere attrition rate could reduce the fitness of the affected birds and potentially alter the population dynamics of birds in noise polluted areas. Our data highlight the need to consider the developmental stage of an organism to better understand the ecological consequences of anthropogenic change.

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