Shorter telomeres precede population extinction in wild lizards

Type Article
Date 2017-12
Language English
Author(s) Dupoue AndreazORCID1, Rutschmann Alexis2, 3, Le Galliard Jean Francois1, 4, Clobert Jean2, Angelier Frederic5, Marciau ColineORCID1, Ruault Stephanie5, Miles DonaldORCID6, Meylan Sandrine1, 7
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Paris 06, iEES Paris, CNRS UPMC, UMR 7618, 4 Pl Jussieu, F-75005 Paris, France.
2 : CNRS Moulis, Stn Ecol Theor & Expt, UMR 5321, F-09200 St Girons, France.
3 : Univ Auckland, Sch Biol Sci, Auckland, New Zealand.
4 : PSL Res Univ, Ctr Rech Ecol Expt & Predict, CEREEP Ecotron IleDeFrance, Ecole Normale Super,CNRS,UMS 3194, 78 Rue Chateau, F-77140 St Pierre Les Nemours, France.
5 : CNRS CEBC ULR, UMR 7672, F-79360 Villiers En Bois, Beauvoir Sur Ni, France.
6 : Ohio Univ, Dept Biol Sci, Athens, OH 45701 USA.
7 : Univ Sorbonne Paris IV, ESPE Paris, 10 Rue Molitor, F-75016 Paris, France.
Source Scientific Reports (2045-2322) (Nature Publishing Group), 2017-12 , Vol. 7 , P. 16976 (8p.)
DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-17323-z
WOS© Times Cited 63

Identifying the early warning signals of catastrophic extinctions has recently become a central focus for ecologists, but species' functional responses to environmental changes remain an untapped source for the sharpening of such warning signals. Telomere length (TL) analysis represents a promising molecular tool with which to raise the alarm regarding early population decline, since telomere attrition is associated with aging processes and accelerates after a recurrent exposure to environmental stressors. In the southern margin of their range, populations of the common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) recently became extinct at lowest elevations due to changes in climate conditions. However, the proximal signals involved in these demographic declines are still unknown. Here, we sampled 100 yearling lizards from 10 natural populations (n = 10 per population) along an extinction risk gradient. Relative lizard abundance dramatically dropped over 12 years in low-altitude populations characterized by warmer ambient temperatures and higher body growth of lizards early in life. A non-linear relationship was found between TL and population extinction risk, with shorter telomeres in populations facing high risk of extinction when compared to non-threatened ones. Our results identify TL as a promising biomarker and imply that population extinctions might be preceded by a loop of physiological aging.

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