Telomere length provides a new technique for aging animals
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- Haussmann, M.F. & Vleck, C.M. Oecologia (2002) 130: 325. doi:10.1007/s00442-001-0827-y
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Field biologists often work with animals for which there is no prior history. A marker of an animal's age would offer insight into how age and experience affect reproductive success and other life history parameters. Telomere length shortens with age in cultured cells and mouse and human tissues. We found that lengths of telomere restriction fragments cleaved from blood cell DNA shorten predictably with age in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). If this relationship holds in other species, it should be possible, once the relationship between telomere length and age has been determined for a given species, to use blood samples to estimate ages of free-living animals. This will allow the incorporation of age into estimates of factors affecting life history parameters in cases where previous histories of animals are unknown.