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Data from: Is telomere length a molecular marker of past thermal stress in wild fish?

Cite this dataset

Debes, Paul V. et al. (2016). Data from: Is telomere length a molecular marker of past thermal stress in wild fish? [Dataset]. Dryad.


Telomeres protect eukaryotic chromosomes; variation in telomere length has been linked (primarily in homoeothermic animals) to variation in stress, cellular ageing and disease risk. Moreover, telomeres have been suggested to function as biomarker for quantifying past environmental stress, but studies in wild animals remain rare. Environmental stress, such as extreme environmental temperatures in poikilothermic animals, may result in oxidative stress that accelerates telomere attrition. However, growth, which may depend on temperature, can also contribute to telomere attrition. To test for associations between multitissue telomere length and past water temperature while accounting for the previous individual growth, we used quantitative PCR to analyse samples from 112 young-of-the-year brown trout from 10 natural rivers with average water temperature differences of up to 6°C (and an absolute maximum of 23°C). We found negative associations between relative telomere length (RTL) and both average river temperature and individual body size. We found no indication of RTL–temperature association differences among six tissues, but we did find indications for differences among the tissues for associations between RTL and body size; size trends, albeit nonsignificant in their differences, were strongest in muscle and weakest in fin. Although causal relationships among temperature, growth, oxidative stress, and cross-sectional telomere length remain largely unknown, our results indicate that telomere-length variation in a poikilothermic wild animal is associated with both past temperature and growth.

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Northern Europe