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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2014

Authors: Aydinonat, D; Penn, DJ; Smith, S; Moodley, Y; Hoelzl, F; Knauer, F; Schwarzenberger, F

Title: Social isolation shortens telomeres in African Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus erithacus).

Source: PLoS One. 2014; 9(4):e93839

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Aydinonat Denise
Hölzl Franz
Knauer Felix
Moodley Yoshan
Penn Dustin
Schwarzenberger Franz
Smith Steven

Vetmed Research Units
Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology
Institute of Physiology, Pathohysiology and Biophysics, Unit of Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Experimental Endocrinology

Telomeres, the caps of eukaryotic chromosomes, control chromosome stability and cellular senescence, but aging and exposure to chronic stress are suspected to cause attrition of telomere length. We investigated the effect of social isolation on telomere length in the highly social and intelligent African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus). Our study population consisted of single-housed (n = 26) and pair-housed (n = 19) captive individuals between 0.75 to 45 years of age. Relative telomere length of erythrocyte DNA was measured by quantitative real-time PCR. We found that telomere length declined with age (p<0.001), and socially isolated parrots had significantly shorter telomeres compared to pair-housed birds (p<0.001) - even among birds of similar ages. Our findings provide the first evidence that social isolation affects telomere length, which supports the hypothesis that telomeres provide a biomarker indicating exposure to chronic stress.

Keywords Pubmed: Age Factors
DNA Primers/genetics
Social Isolation/psychology*
Stress, Psychological/genetics
Stress, Psychological/physiopathology*
Telomere Shortening/genetics
Telomere Shortening/physiology*

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