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A new publication, titled "Anthropogenic activities are associated with shorter telomeres in chicks of Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)", has been published in Polar Biology. The paper is available open-access and can be viewed here


Defining the impact of anthropogenic stressors on Antarctic wildlife is an active aim for investigators. Telomeres represent a promising molecular tool to investigate the fitness of wild populations, as their length may predict longevity and survival. We examined the relationship between telomere length and human exposure in Adélie penguin chicks (Pygoscelis adeliae) from East Antarctica. Telomere length was compared between chicks from areas with sustained human activity and on neighboring protected islands with little or no human presence. Adélie penguin chicks from sites exposed to human activity had significantly shorter telomeres than chicks from unexposed sites in nearby protected areas, with exposed chicks having on average 3.5% shorter telomeres than unexposed chicks. While sampling limitations preclude our ability to draw more sweeping conclusions at this time, our analysis nonetheless provides important insights into measures of colony vulnerability. More data are needed both to understand the proximate causes (e.g., stress, feeding events) leading to shorter telomeres in chicks from human exposed areas, as well as the fitness consequences of reduced telomere length. We suggest to further test the use of telomere length analysis as an eco-indicator of stress in wildlife among anthropized sites throughout Antarctica.


Caccavo, J.A., Raclot, T., Poupart, T. et al. Anthropogenic activities are associated with shorter telomeres in chicks of Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae). Polar Biol (2021).

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